Thanks to Randi’s curious intransigence about driving me to Oklahoma, that state is still pending a visit. So, last weekend we did the next best thing and watched Oklahoma!, the 1955 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. As a child I loved this film, which (for some reason) we had on both VHS and audio cassette, and I spent many hours alternating between the two. Mostly I loved the song ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’, because I thought their being friends was a great idea, and was too young to realise that healing the rural class divide would only cement their united opposition to big city liberalism and Medicare.
I don’t think I cared much about the romance stuff back then, and even today I still find it rather puzzling. In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot of Oklahoma!, here’s a summary: Curly (a clean-cut cowman) and Laurey (a clean-cut farm girl) are very obviously in love with each other, but Laurey is offended by Curly asking her to the dance too late, and so she agrees to go instead with Jud (her surly hired hand on the farm, who lives in a shack and is maybe 50/50 on having maybe once burned a family to death) to make Curly jealous. There’s also some subtext here about fancy farm girl Laurey being unsatisfied with Curly’s lowly cowman status, although shacking up with the guy-who-lives-in-a-shack is a curious way to maintain your social standing.
But the really odd thing in this film is Jud, because nobody reacts to Jud in the way you might expect. Typically, the ‘boy invited along to make the other boy jealous’ character falls into one of two categories. Either he’s the laughing-stock underdog whom the audience is rooting for to win the girl around for real, or he’s the popular and socially desirable choice (rich, handsome, Hugh Grant) but secretly a psychopath. Jud is the laughing-stock underdog who’s pretty openly a psychopath and yet he goes around menacing Laurey and her Aunt Eller as if he has the upper hand, despite the fact that they are his employers and could fire him at any minute. (Spoiler alert: eventually, they do.) Was casual farm labour in the Oklahoman economy really so scarce that Jud holds all the cards? What gives?
So as excited as I’m sure you were to read three paragraphs about a 62 year old musical, how about something completely different? How about, say, some audio promotion for this blog? You got it!
Thanks to Michael Wians, who auctioned off custom rap tracks as part of our internal fundraising at work for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. (Yes, this was before all of the other hurricanes. I may need a sequel.) It has been a busy couple of weeks, with many visitors congregating on the Chicago office and organising dinners and having many opinions on where those dinners should be, although I must say that the delegation I led to Kuma’s for burgers made no complaints.
Last Friday Randi and I also saw The Audience with Catherine and AJ, the 2013 play about Queen Elizabeth’s weekly meeting with her many Prime Ministers which I thought I’d missed forever. I obviously enjoyed it, because it was clearly written for me, although I’m not sure that anyone coming fresh to British politics could get anything at all. The accents were a little all over the place, but entirely forgivably, Thatcher was terrifying, as per life, and at the end they lit up big photographs around the theatre of all of the modern Prime Ministers under flashing lights while playing Dancing Queen, and it was both hilarious and silly but also a deep relief that the UK does not ever actually expect anyone to ever display a Prime Minister’s portrait. If we ever find ourselves casting for a new Head of State, let’s make it David Attenborough or Jean-Luc Picard or Curly the Cowman or someone.
Oklahoma! If I do ever visit now, I’ve already used up my background anecdotes.
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