Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oklahoma! (1999)

Since watching Oklahoma! (1999) this past weekend, I have recommended it to several people and the response is usually something like, "There's a new Oklahoma!?" Well, 'new' is a relative term, but since the film version most people are familiar with is more than fifty years old, it seems appropriate here.

Yep, FIFTY. The Shirley Jones movie came out in 1955, folks. That's been a few years. More than time for a remake, I think.

I was already aware of this production since I'd seen a little bit of it on PBS's Great Performances a few years back. At the time, I was put off by the fact that it was NOT a movie adaptation, but rather a filmed stage production. The audience is sometimes visible, even purposefully visible. The sets are typical, although nicely conceived, theater sets - painted backdrops, simple props, etc... At the time, this turned me off and I didn't watch much of the show. (I've read recently that this production was actually filmed on a soundstage and the audience shots are intercut to make it seem like a live production. Whichever it is doesn't really matter - it's more like a stage play than it's not.)

So, be prepared for that and then you won't miss, as I did, the wonderful performance given by Hugh Jackman as Curly.

Yes.

I said Hugh Jackman.

The man can sing. The man can dance. The man can act. And he's easy on the eyes, too. (OK, perhaps that last one is a bit of an understatement.) And he did Oklahoma! on film in 1999. So for 10 years, most of us have been unaware of this musical gem, but no longer.

If you are unfamiliar with Oklahoma!, Curly is the male lead character, a cowboy on the Oklahoma frontier. As Curly, Jackman sings number after number. He dances. He carries the entire production with effortless panache.

Laurie, the female lead, is adequately, but unmemorably, played by Josefina Gabrielle, a relatively unknown actress/dancer who seems rather old to be playing the naive Laurie. Her singing is lovely, but she just doesn't have any chemistry with Jackman or with Hensley. The performance that seemed to match Hugh's performance in depth and skill was given by the actress playing Aunt Eller, Maureen Lipman, an award-winning veteran actress. I also enjoyed performances by Vicki Simon (a wide-eyed Ado Annie) and Shuler Hensley (properly repulsive as Jud Fry, but played with a poignant frightening depth). (Aside - I found it interesting that Hensley played Frankenstein's Monster in Van Helsing - another film in which Jackman had the main role.)

You'll need three hours to enjoy this simply staged, but beautifully rendered production. My children watched with me and it kept their attention most of the time. There were a few scenes that may require some parental guidance - the subject matter may be a little risque. Obsessive love, pinup photos, a girl "who cain't say no", Jud's murder plot.

But the songs! Oh, the songs! I've known most of them by heart since I was a young teen. If you don't know them, you simply must!

So if you only ever watch one version of Oklahoma!, make it this one! I will be adding this DVD to my collection very soon.

Now, if I could just finagle things somehow to make Mr. Jackman consider playing Joseph.....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top 100 Musicals?

I've been on a kind of musical kick lately, sorta jump-started by watching the High School Musical trilogy. I moved on to Oklahoma (1999) and Hairspray (2007) and probably will keep on going. If you know me, you know I'm nothing if not obsessive. lol So, I went searching for a good list of the best musicals. It was harder to find than one might imagine, but here's a list of the top 100 as chosen by the UK's channel 4. (None of the ones I've mentioned so far are on the list.)

That list was not easily copy/pastable, so I found another source for that and here's their introduction to the list:
"From the start of the new millenium, UK television channel, channel 4, ran a series of programs which ran through the top 100 of various genres, including films, film stars, war movies and musicals. the program was aired in 2003 and was made up of viewer votes both on their website and by phone. Channel 4 has a fairly youth based program strategy and perhaps this is why some of the entries are surprising, it is also clear to see which programs and films were in the media at the time. Below is their top 100 list of greatest musicals, some you may have never heard of and some stretch the term musical to and beyond its limits, but it is a great list all the same, and I wonder if you can guess which musical is voted the greatest musical of all time? Simply scroll down to the number one spot to find out!"

I've bolded the ones I've seen and noted if they were on-stage, movie version, or both. Feel free to copy the list and make your own choices. Also, I'd love your recommendations of any must-see musicals, either on this list or not.

100: Lets Make Love
99: Miss Saigon
98: Bright Eyes
97: The Cotton Club (I may have seen this movie, long ago)
96: Lullaby of Broadway
95: Breaking Glass
94: Sholay
93: How to succeed in business without really trying
92: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
91: Everyone Says I Love You
90: Cry Baby
89: A Little Night Music
88: For Me and My Gal
87: Million Dollar Mermaid
86: There's No Business Like Show Business
85: Funny Face
84: Ziegfeld Follies
83: A Star Is Born (Barbra Streisand) (movie)
82: Anything Goes
81: Yankee Doodle Dandy
80: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
79: All That Jazz
78: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
77: Porgy and Bess
76: Dancer in the Dark
75: Dil Se
74: Shall We Dance
73: Half a Sixpence
72: Godspell
71: Show Boat
70: Gigi
69: The Producers
68: Kiss Me Kate
67: Doctor Dolittle (movie)
66: Gypsy
65: The Jazz Singer (movie)
64: Easter Parade
63: Jailhouse Rock
62: Sweet Charity
61: Scrooge
60: Top Hat
59: Funny Girl (movie)
58: An American in Paris
57: Paint Your Wagon
56: Meet Me In St Louis (movie)
55: Hair
54: On the Town
53: Cinderella (movie)
52: Carmen Jones
51: Thoroughly Modern Millie (movie)
50: Hello Dolly (movie)
49: Muppets Take Manhattan (movie)
48: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (movie)
47: Summer Holiday
46: A Chorus Line
45: A Star is Born (Judy Garland)
44: Tommy
43: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (movie)
42: Starlight Express
41: Carousel
40: 8 Mile
39: South Pacific (can you believe I've never seen it?)
38: The Nightmare Before Christmas
37: White Christmas (movie)
36: Guys and Dolls
35: Oklahoma (movie, stage)
34: High Society
33: Fiddler on the Roof (movie, stage)
32:Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (movie)
31: Blood Brothers
30: Cats
29: Fame (movie - I think they're remaking this too)
28: Jesus Christ Superstar (movie)
27: Jungle Book (movie)
26: Annie (movie - 2 versions)
25: Calamity Jane
24: The Blues Brothers (movie)
23: The King and I (movie)
22: Evita
21: Little Shop of Horrors (movie)
20: Phantom of the Opera (movie)
19: Bugsy Malone
18: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (movie, stage - several times)
17: Cabaret
16: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (movie)
15: Les Miserables (movie)
14: The Lion King (I've seen the Disney movie, but isn't the Broadway show different?)
13: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling (huh???)
12: My Fair Lady (movie)
11: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (movie)
10: Moulin Rouge (movie)
9: Oliver!
8: Chicago (movie)
7: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (movie with audience participation, several times)
6: Singing In The Rain
5: Mary Poppins (movie)
4: West Side Story (movie)
3: The Wizard of Oz (movie)
2: The Sound of Music (movie, stage)
1: Grease (movie)

Mamma Mia is not on this list (too new?), but I've seen that movie. What else is missing from the list?

What are your favorites? Some of the ones I need to make time to view are: Singing in the Rain, Oliver!, Evita, Cats, South Pacific, Carousel (may be remade with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway), A Chorus Line, Gypsy, Kiss Me Kate, and Miss Saigon. What else should I see?

What musicals are you motivated to go see after viewing this list?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Gluttony

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Mariel suggested this week’s question

Book Gluttony! Are your eyes bigger than your book belly? Do you have a habit of buying up books far quicker than you could possibly read them? Have you had to curb your book buying habits until you can catch up with yourself? Or are you a controlled buyer, only purchasing books when you have run out of things to read?

Well, yes, I definitely buy more books than I can read. In the past, I have occasionally tried a moratorium on book-buying, but it doesn't work too well for me. Books are too tempting! I also buy books for my children - probably more than they can (or want to) read. Since I usually buy my books used, at least it isn't a terribly expensive habit.