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Posts Tagged ‘cowboys’

I have a small confession to make – I have never seen Oklahoma! before.  Not the film version starring Gordon McRae, or any other stage production.  My basic knowledge of the story was that it had a character named Curly, who Hugh Jackman once played on Broadway, and that it was a musical featuring cowboys.  I knew a couple of the songs of course, but beyond that…nothing.

However, I do enjoy musical theatre and there seemed to be a lot of buzz about the current production, so I decided to buy tickets, and it ended up exceeding all my expectations.

The basic story revolves around cowboy Curly and a young lady named Laurey (played by Ashley Day and Charlotte Wakefield respectively), who despite acting with hostility towards each other, clearly are very attracted, but first there is the little matter of creepy farmhand Jud (Nic Greenshields), who wants Laurey for himself.

Meanwhile, Will Parker (played by the wonderful James O’Connell) really wants to marry Ado Annie (the equally delightful Lucy May Barker), but has to contend with his rival Ali Hakim (Gary Wilmot), a charming but irresponsible pedlar), who unwillingly finds himself engaged to Annie.

Watching over all the proceedings is the wise and weary Aunt Eller (Belinda Lang), who is a sort of wise-cracking, plain-speaking mother hen to all the younger characters.

I can honestly say that none of the performers put a foot wrong, literally or figuratively.  Day and Wakefield both had beautiful voices and great chemistry together.  Their duet of People Will Say We’re In Love, was fantastic, and Day’s opening song, Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’! was the perfect way to start the show.

Wilmot provided a lot of humour and was ideal for the role of Ali Hakim, and Lang was fantastic – perfectly cast – if virtually unrecognisable – as Aunt Eller.

My two favourite performances of the show came from O’Connell and Barker – the story between Will and Annie captivated me as much as the main story between Curly and Laurey, and O’Connell and the ensemble cast’s performance of Kansas City was a real highlight, with some energetic and wonderfully choreographed dancing, and terrific vocal performances.  I also loved the Act 2 opening number, The Farmer and the Cowhand should be friends.  Additionally, Barker really made the most of Annie’s song, I Cain’t Say No, which was lots of fun.

I was a bit surprised by some of the darker parts of the story – for example, when Curly tries to encourage the intimidating and obsessive Jud to commit suicide.  The dream sequence also had a sinister undertone, but both scenes had some beautiful singing, and the latter also had some incredible dancing, which took the edge off.

A uniformly excellent ensemble cast – filled with incredibly talented singers and dancers – provided perfect support to the main characters, with everyone seeming to get their moment in the limelight during the amazing dance numbers.

The whole audience seemed to love this show, and it was easy to see why.  This performance is definitely an early contender for my favourite show of the year (yes I know it’s only March).  If you are a fan of musical theatre, don’t miss this production.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

 

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This books takes narrative liberties to tell the true story of a real Wyoming cowboy, Colton H. Bryant.  Born in 1980 to a loving and close family, Colton is often teased in childhood for his short attention span and simple outlook, but he never loses his love of life and grows up to be a decent and kind husband, father, brother and son.  With stunning blue eyes and a truly beautiful soul, Colton becomes one of Wyoming’s favourite sons, but as he and his friends grow up, reality bites and he starts working on one of Wyoming’s Oil Rigs, a dirty and dangerous job, but the only option for many young men in the area.

The book tells Colton’s life in a series of short vignettes and ‘snapshots’ from his youth and adulthood.  It is mostly told in short chapters (about 3 – 5 pages long) and through these chapters, we not only get to know Colton, but also his family, best friend Jake and wife Melissa.  (His family and friends were completely open and honest with Fuller in describing his life.)

This book made me cry – and that isn’t something that happens very often when I’m reading (I love to read, and books often make me laugh, but rarely do they make me cry).  Alexandra Fuller’s writers is incredible – beautiful, evocative and poetic.  This is an author who can bring such emotion to the reader.  She finds the hero in Colton, and really made me feel for this sweet young man, in a way that I almost didn’t even realise until tragedy hits in his story.  At times, I found myself re-reading passages simply because the writing was so lovely.

Despite the harsh life for many people in Wyoming – which is perfectly illustrated, Fuller makes the place – and its people – incredibly interesting, and it’s clear that despite hating the greedy oil companies who have taken over so much of the area – she has a deep affection and love for the place.

I adored this book, and getting to know Colton, his family and friends.  It’s a story that won’t leave me for a long time, and I would highly recommend this book to just about anybody.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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