2 August 2015

Oklahoma!

How do you celebrate the night of Yorkshire Day? Why, you go and see a production of "Oklahoma!" of course. 

It was in Sheffield's beautifully restored "Lyceum" Theatre and we were just four rows from the front. The production was slick, vibrant and thoroughly entertaining and the quality of singing was tremendous. So too were the dance sections. In fact, I didn't spot a single unintended error or flaw in the entire show and the cast truly deserved their standing ovation.
Curly with Jud at The Smoke House in last night's performance of "Oklahoma!"
"Oklahoma!" first opened on Broadway in March, 1943 while the second world war was being waged in Europe and the western Pacific. Perhaps its "feel good" character was a deliberate antidote to war. This musical represented the very first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It was immediately a huge box office success and seventy years later it still pulls in the crowds.

At one point in Act One, cowboy Will Parker returns from Kansas City having been mightily impressed with the place. And he sings:-

Ev'rythin's up to date in Kansas City
They've gone about as fur as they c'n go!
They went and built a skyscraper seven stories high,
About as high as a buildin' orta grow.
Ev'rythin's like a dream in Kansas City,
It's better than a magic lantern show!
Y' c'n turn the radiator on
Whenever you want some heat.
With ev'ry kind o' comfort
Ev'ry house is all complete.
You c'n walk to privies in the rain
And never wet your feet!
They've gone about as fur as they c'n go,

If only Will had known what the next seventy years would bring!

Theatre writer Thomas Hischak once wrote, "Not only is 'Oklahoma!' the most important of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, it is also the single most influential work in the American musical theatre. ... It is the first fully integrated musical play and its blending of song, character, plot and even dance would serve as the model for Broadway shows for decades."

Gene Nelson as Will Parker in the 1955 film version of "Oklahoma!"

25 comments:

  1. There's nothing quite as enjoyable as watching a good stage musical performed well. Live performances are special.

    When we were kids my friend who lived across the street and I used to play the record over and over...along with"Carousel" and "The Pajama Game", and others. Friday nights were our "sleep-over" nights...I'd always spend the night at her home and we played record after record while we sang and danced along to them. We loved our Friday nights. Good times...good memories.

    I've known her since I was four years old...and we're still the best of friends.

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    1. You are so lucky to have such a fellow traveller Lee. Life can be hard and to have someone like that in your life is better than treasure

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  2. I do enjoy a good musical . I remember the movie as well .

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    1. Why not get some lyrics up on your computer screen and sing along Leisha?
      "OOOOk-lahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain,
      And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet, When the wind comes right behind the rain!"

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  3. Oklahoma is always worth seeing again.

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  4. We did "Oklahoma" in high school when I was in the drama club. (And also its children, "The Sound of Music" and "South Pacific.") I remember it well!

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    1. Were you a lonely goatherd in "The Sound of Music" Steve?

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  5. I have to admit to have never seen any of these musicals I have seen Porgy and Bess. Does that count? I also saw HMS Pinafore which I suspect was written in proper English. I enjoyed the latter.

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    1. I guess you have seen "Oliver". There's a character in that show that reminds me very much of you, And I am not talking about sweet little Oliver Twist.

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    2. AH, Yes I did see Oliver on the Telly. Greedy little sod he was. Lazy and dishonest as well. He ought to have gone to the food banks like normal folk.

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    3. See, you even sound like Fagin!

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  6. Our school put on the production, and I played Ado Annie, I would have never dreamed in my wildest years that one day I would actually visit Oklahoma.....
    Life's little surprises eh !
    ~Jo

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    1. Ado Annie comes across as rather naive and quite promiscuous. Was this a case of typecasting Jo?

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    2. I'd say I wasn't naïve Pud.
      ~Jo

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  7. Like Adrian, I haven't seen any of the musicals mentioned here. What I have seen (in the early 1990s while visiting my sister who was then working and living near London) was "The Buddy Holly Story", which was great. My only musical so far!

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    1. Your only musical! Oh dear Meike - your theatrical experience has been sadly undernourished. I wonder if there's a good show on in Leeds while you are in England.

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    2. Meike, I can highly recommend going to see Dirty Dancing in Glasgow. The audience were better than the cast and a bar in front. Then there was a fight in the auditorium and the bouncers had to eject a middle aged lady. By hell she didn't go easily. My sister remarked that the show wasn't half as much fun in the Edinburgh Playhouse.
      Thank heaven it was not Porgy and Bess we went to see. Porgy and Bess is a semi civilised version of The Clockwork Orange and Kill Bill rolled into one.

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  8. One of the things about seeing a musical live is that it makes it special and it imprints it on your brain to an extent a film cannot do (for me anyway). I recall seeing Lionel Bart's Blitz in The West End nearly half a century ago and I still know all the tunes. I saw Mama Mia in Toronto back in 2000 just after its debut on Broadway. Although I really enjoyed it it didn't occur to me that it would be the smash hit it has been on stage. I recall seeing the film of Oklahoma back in 1955 or thereabouts and finding part of it quite disturbing. I've never watched it since. I must watch it some time.

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    1. It was the first time I had seen "Oklahoma!" live in a theatre and I loved it. What a super cast! so talented and so perfect in their delivery. I have not seen "Mama Mia" as I was never a fan of Abba or their banal pop music.The best musical I ever saw was "Evita" in London - it fair took my breath away.

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    2. So you think that my esoteric classical listening sleep-inducing and my pop-music listening (albeit in a musical I was invited to) banal. I am beginning to get the impression that you are rather elitist. Given that my tastes are actually extremely catholic it would be interesting to see of what you would approve.

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  9. Live musicals are wonderful when they're performed by people who can really sing. My absolute favourite is Les Miserables no matter how many times I see it.

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  10. I'm waiting for your response to Helsie. Having first seen Les Miserables in Perth WA perhaps you approve of this one of my musical adventures.

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