Entertainment

Oklahoma

by Steven Bergman
Contributor
Thursday Dec 27, 2012
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In 1999, Director Trevor Nunn ("Cats," "Sunset Boulevard" and the 2011 revival of "A Little Night Music") proved that the classic musical, "Oklahoma," could still be an audience pleasing, yet poignant, evening of theater when he constructed the Rodgers and Hammerstein staple for London’s Royal National Theatre. Image Entertainment has now released Nunn’s vision on DVD and Blu-ray.

The tale, though simple by today’s standards, was a major theatrical breakthrough when it premiered on Broadway in 1943. Before "Oklahoma," the music and dance elements of a musical had never been integrated into its storytelling. However, through the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein and the dance sequences by the acclaimed choreographer Agnes DeMille, the love triangle of Curly, Laurie and Jud, set against the backdrop of the territory that would become our 46th state in 1907, continues to keep audiences’ attention.

Hugh Jackman ("X-Man," "The Boy From Oz," and the highly anticipated film version of "Les Miserables") gives an admirable performance as Curly, the macho, yet lovestruck, cowboy. He certainly can sing the role, and his love for the spunky Laurie (ballerina and Olivier Award nominee, Josefina Gabrielle) is believable, but his confrontation sequences with the brooding hired hand Jud Fry (emotionally played by American actor Shuler Hensley, who would win the 2002 Tony Award for the role when it moved to Broadway) come across as too vulnerable, and we lose respect for the "how-tough-are-you-really" character.

Nunn was granted permission from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization to revisit the show’s famous "Dream Ballet," a 15-minute conclusion to act one that beautifully gives us insight into Laurie’s conflict between the two men. Susan Stroman vividly choreographes the sequence, and is invaluably assisted by having Jackman and Gabrielle dance the roles of "Dream Curly" and "Dream Laurie," traditionally acted out by dancer-doubles. The remainder of Stroman’s dances throughout the show are entertaining, especially in "The Farmer and the Cowman" and "Kansas City."

The famous songlist is long and include, "People Will Say We’re In Love," "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," and the title track, and the ensemble delivers them wholeheartedly. Jackman isn’t John Raitt or Gordon MacRae, but he brings a connection for a modern audience to this timeless musical.

"Oklahoma (1999 Royal National Theatre)"
Rodgers and Hammerstein
DVD and Blu-ray formats
Image Entertainment

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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