Thursday, February 16, 2006

Brits Capture Oklahoma! and other Belated News

When I confess that I fancy Hugh Jackman, you look at me strangely. You say, "Huh? You and Wolverine? Nooo!"

That's when I tell you about the 1999 London Stage Revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma. Hugh plays Curly, the heterosexual cowboy. (Yep, that's right, a few of 'em are hetero.)

Now I hear you muttering: "Oklahoma is a corny musical about two shallow lovers who create chaos cause they're too silly, snotty and snooty to go on a simple date!"

I nod, because I thought so, too, after watching the 1950s American-made version with Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.

I hated that Curly! He was a slick stick, a bland bore, and far too fancy-pants clean to be a cowboy! (And Laurey was such a hissy-priss, and Jud, no more than a cartoon-caricature.)

But the Brit version (directed by Trevor Nunn) captures Oklahoma! better than we Americans did: the clash between farmers and cowboys: desire to grow vs. desire to graze; desire to build vs. desire to roam; a conflict over territory and lifestyle among poor Americans.

Sure, this Oklahoma! still mixes plenty of frivolity amidst the drama. Hey, it's a Musical, after all! Curly's still foolhardy and Laurey (Josefina Gabrielle) still stubborn, but when confronted with Jud, they're offered a chance to mature and they take it. (The main actors also perform the full ballet.)

Jud, played with great depth and darkness by Shuler Hensley, may be the most exciting revelation. He gives Oklahoma! something I never knew it had: a real plot.

So, thanks, Trevor, for filming this production, because I wouldn't have thought to look for Oklahoma! in London.

More Recommendations:

If you're a blogging woman and would like to join a community of blogging women, I recommend checking out

If you're still pondering burning a diary or two, I recommend reading Holly's journaling entry at Self-Portrait as.

If you believe Emily Dickinson was completely content to write for herself alone, I recommend watching The Belle of Amherst starring Julie Harris.

If you think Gilmore Girls is "Girls Only," I recommend viewing the last few minutes of Friday Night's Alright for Fighting (this season's 13th episode). Sure, GG's often shaky when it comes to plot (I hate the soap-opera Luke-discovers-daughter storyline! Golly, does he have a twin brother, too, longing for a reunion?!).

But at the end of Friday Night's Alright for Fighting, all focus returns to the family core, where GG is at its best. For a few minutes, innovative blocking, creative jump cuts, and documentary-style camera work all reinforce the ultra-sharp dialogue and complicated relations between three generations of family.

I leave you with a few words from Lorelai (spoken during this sequence): "Thank you! And ... SCENE."

(Enjoy your weekend.)

12 repartee:

Blogger The Poodle's Friend wrote...

Waaahhhh! No GG for us over here! I HATE ITALY.
OK, not really.
I can't believe Luke has a daughter. That's just lame. Oh, and thanks for the spoiler. No, not really. I'm not a spoiler person. Oh well. =)
We had a crazy drama teacher who insisted singing songs from Oklahoma! at random intervals. He was weird. I'm sure Hugh Jackman did a much better job with it.
There's heterosexual cowboys? Wow, you learn something new every day!

2/16/2006 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

Ouch! We're only in season 4 here in GG!! Well, at least I am - I lagged behind and missed season 5 when it was shown.

It's definitely not a girls-only show. In fact, it was my boyfriend who introduced me to this fabulous series :)


2/16/2006 4:16 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Sorry for spoilers! I watch everything weeks behind here (for the most part), but oops! - I forgot the lag in Italy and Spain! So I guess I shouldn't tell you about the super-big—oh, got it, stop right there!

TPF – I suspect Hugh tops your "crazy drama teacher." Well, let's hope! When he starts singing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, it's just loverly!

Cristina – What a cool boyfriend - :) and I'm so glad you're enjoying the series! (It gets even better in season 5!)

2/16/2006 5:58 PM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

Nice review of Oklahoma!! (one ! for the title, one ! for MY exclamation, heh)
and thank you also for the other recommendations:)

2/16/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

actonbell - you!are!welcome!

(oh, that looks downright silly, but I can't resist)

2/16/2006 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Hey! OK, Shirley Jones is supremely annoying. But I LOVE Gordon McRae--I LOVE his voice and I LOVE his rendition of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"! I love the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! It's supremely beautiful, filmed as it was in southern Arizona, which was deemed much prettier than Oklahoma: Arizona has flat places with purple mountains in the distance, something the state of Oklahoma totally lacks. And in that scene where GM is singing about the fact that "The corn is as high as an elephant's eye," it was actually as high as an elephant'eye if that elephant was standing atop another elephant, because Arizona has such fertile soil--it just doesn't have much water.

Ain't no stage version gonna top that, even if it does have Wolverine in it. (Yeah, I dig him too.)

2/17/2006 8:16 AM  
Anonymous PE wrote...

I agree with you regarding the London adaptation. When I watched the movie as a kid, I was rooting for Rod Steiger's Jud over McRae's Curly. The "poor jud is dead" song just came off as mean spirited in McRae's hands, while Jackman's portrayal is more playful which allowed me to see the danger in Jed's character. Steiger, to me, never had that edge and Curly, to me, never had the charm. And because I saw the movie later on television.. Shirley Jones was always the leader of the Partridge Family to me.

2/19/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger Mercy wrote...

YES! To Oklahoma!

And YES!!!!! to Gilmore. That was undoubtedly one of my favorite episodes of the year.

2/19/2006 2:24 PM  
Anonymous pe wrote...

"Oklahoma" was filmed in Arizona? Well, it's hard to imagine the cast singing "zona..zona.." instead of "homa..homa..", but the two states' names do have the same number of syllables.

Did the cowmen and the ranchers fight there too?

2/19/2006 2:56 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Hi, all!

Holly – Aha! Do I detect a teeny-weeny bias here? Well, I think you’re absolutely right to stand by the state you love! :) And yes, agreed – Hugh cannot match MacRae in sheer vocal quality. Nor can any stage match or mirror the lavish beauty of the 1955 film. I admit I’m a minimalist when it comes to setting, but most audiences expect the sets of Musicals practically to outperform the characters - so the 1955 film can easily be admired and enjoyed for its incredible costumes, dancing, sining. (But someday, do watch the stage version - yes, I’m trying to make a convert of you, hehe!) You are *definitely* not alone in loving the film!

PE – I’ll echo you in saying that Jud is far more fully realized in the stage version than the film. And since Jud is more ominous, Curly becomes more sympathetic when he taunts Jud. Ah, don’t you just love the Poor Jud is Dead scene! It’s so brilliant!!!

Mercy – Hi! Thanks for your YES and your YES! That GG sequence was just too cool!

2/20/2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Oops, that's "singing" not "sining" but at least I didn't write "sinning!"

2/20/2006 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

OK, I'll check out the film of the London revival: Netflix recommends it to me almost every time I log on. I'll add it to my queue.

re: film locations--just as many movie companies go to Canada to film these days because it's cheaper there than in the US, so in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, many films were shot in Arizona, because A) it was cheaper than any location in California, but was an easy drive from Hollywood, and B) it had such dramatic landscapes and C) you could usually easily predict what the weather and light would be like.

2/20/2006 10:08 AM  

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