I watched the 1955 film version of Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! the other night, something that I am inclined to do every other year or so. It is a feel-good movie based on, in my opinion, one of the best musicals in the history of the American stage.
(The Brits did their own staged version of Oklahoma! a few years ago starring a surprisingly agile and vocal Hugh Jackman. It was filmed and has run here in America on PBS.)
Oklahoma! is the story of a budding love affair between a cowboy named Curly - and Laurey, a farm girl living with her aunt on the Oklahoma prairie at the end of the nineteenth century. Everyone is preparing to attend a big party and dance at a neighboring farm that evening and Laurey, in a fit of pique, has made a date to attend the festivities with someone other than Curly. The action revolves around the two of them as they attempt to sort out their feelings for one another.
But there is another romance trying to blossom during the play. Laurey's best friend, Ado Annie, a girl who has trouble saying no and tends to profess her love for whichever man happens to be with her at the time, is torn between Ali Hakem, a Persian peddler, and a rodeo cowboy named Will Parker. Ali Hakem is preparing to move on, and he has no serious interest in Ado Annie. Will Parker, on the other hand, is desperately in love with the girl, no matter her easy nature, and has returned from Kansas City that very day where he won enough money in a rodeo to buy the hand of his beloved from her money-grubbing father.
In many ways the complicated love affair between Will and Ado Annie is better theatre than the cat-and-mouse romance of the starchier Curly and Laurey.
Our local little theatre group has announced plans to produce Oklahoma! the third week in June. The group does a musical most summers, and the ones that I have seen have been surprisingly good. Unfortunately, there are no parts for crotchety old men, or I might have been tempted to go to tryouts. I could see myself as Will Parker - if I were forty years younger - and could dance in cowboy boots while twirling a lasso - or could just dance at all - and if I could sing! Other than that I would be perfect for the role!
But alas, timing and talent appear to be everything.