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Posts Tagged ‘wild west’

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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In this delightful musical from 1946, Judy Garland plays Susan Bradley, a young woman from Ohio, travelling to a western town to marry a man she has only ever spoken to by post. On the train, she meets a group of young women who are planning to open a Harey House restaurant in the town. When she and her suitor realise that they are actually completely wrong for each other, she joins the Harvey girls…but the staff and customers of the nearby Alhambra saloon resent the presence of the restaurant. And further complications ensue when Susan finds herself drawn to Ned Trent (John Hodiak), the owner of the saloon…

Judy Garland starred in a number of hit movie musicals, probably most notably Meet Me In St Louis and The Wizard of Oz. The Harvey Girls is somehow often overlooked, and that’s a shame because it really is a lovely, funny and sweet film from MGM, the studio that produced all the best musicals of the era. Garland is perfectly cast as Susan Bradley, a young woman with grit and determination, and no shortage of humour! John Hodiak is handsome and charismatic as the man who she falls for despite herself. It’s also worth mentioning that some great supporting roles are played by Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse and Virginia O’Brien (although O’Brien seems to disappear halfway through the film; this was due to her real life pregnancy). Some of the songs are terrific, and there is a real sense of joy permeating through the film.  And if you like fabulous dancing, check out Ray Bolger’s incredible dance – the energy and choreography is amazing.

The ending, when it comes, is no great surprise – but how often is anyone surprised by the ending of romantic comedy musical?! And in any event, any other ending would have not felt right.

If you like musicals and haven’t seen this one yet, I’d definitely recommend that you do so. Garland looks stunning, and plays her role with aplomb; the supporting cast are great; the whole thing is colourful and cheerful – it’s well worth a watch!

Year of release: 1946

Director: George Sidney

Writers: Samuel Hopkins Adams (book), Eleanore Griffin, William Rankin, Edmund Beloin, Nathaniel Curtis, Harry Crane, James O’Hanlon, Samson Raphaelson, Kay Van Riper

Main cast: Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse, Virginia O’Brien

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