Melodic history - some homework, of sorts

By Tim Smith

The @ Home Edition

Now, don’t worry, this will be a relaxing and entertaining viewing experience that I would like for you to take during the upcoming holiday weekends.

This recommendation is not just for those of you who are theater aficionados, especially, of the musical genre, it is bigger than just that, as it centers around the production that set the path of the art form for nearly eight decades, Oklahoma.

To set the stage: In 1943, Oklahoma opened on Broadway, and for the first time, music, dance and the book worked together to advance the story. Music and lyrics, and the book, were penned by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II, with choreography by Agnes De Mille and orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett.

Now, with all of that, I recommend watching the 2017 BBC Proms production of the musical over YouTube. Its magnificent cast brings that 1943 version back to life.

With almost minuscule tweaks to the original costuming patterns, colors and styles, the producers also stayed true to the original '43 Broadway book and score, most importantly, the orchestrations as set down by Mr. Bennett from Mr. Rogers original music.

The orchestra is under the masterful direction of John Wilson who has a passion for bringing original work to the contemporary stage. His youthful energy is infectious.

And from what can be determined, the dances by Ms. DeMille remained nearly intact.

To further accentuate the originality, and for ease of presentation over the vast Royal Albert Hall stage, (located in London), there were only limited scenic devices called on to set the times and locations.

The subsequent open staging takes some getting used to in this digital age, but don’t let that throw you, it all makes perfect sense after just a few minutes.

The performances from the six major players to the supporting cast are drawn to full measure, with a particular nod to Lizzy Connolly, in the comedic role of Ado Annie. When she makes her first entrance, the production comes to life, the true measure of the power of the supporting character’s role when partnered with a strong book from which to build upon.

Back to the future: We lived for nearly a decade in Southern California, and during the period when we were in Hollywood, it was a relatively inexpensive drive, and as it turned out, a much, much cheaper general admission fee, to visit Disneyland.

On our recent excursion to the Walt Disney World complex in Florida, it was great fun to be introduced to new rides and attractions, and even more of a kick to become re-acquainted with those that we had enjoyed decades earlier.

Three “oldies” come readily to mind: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion and the Jungle Cruise. Certainly, the movies based on the first and third added to the longer lines, but the waiting times were relatively minimal.

There is an art – and science, to scheduling your enjoyment of all rides and attractions, so my advice, download the applications on your phone that will assist you in navigating these new scheduling parameters.

This especially holds true with the major restaurants and the newer rides. Ratatouille @ EPCOT, that had opened just a few weeks before we were there, is a prime example. We had to wait a number of hours, but it was well worth it. The time was not wasted as we knew exactly when to arrive at the attraction.

You will enjoy your time much more if you become familiar with what all these applications can do. It’s a much different world than the late '70s to be sure.

Speaking of Broadway: If your travel plans over the Thanksgiving-New Year’s holiday period should include a stay in/around New York City, here are some suggestions of shows that you might want to check out. I recommend securing your tickets well in advance. Secondly, if there is a production that you would like to see once you arrive, don’t hesitate in securing separate seats. It is just for a few hours and you can commiserate during intermission. . . and well after the curtain falls.

Here are a few shows whose curtains are being raised:

“The Music Man” will be in preview performances beginning December 20: Starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster; “Flying Over Sunset” is in previews that began on November 11th and Greg Kinnear will be taking on the role of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” opening his run January 5, 2022.

Next week: A colleague was taken to see the Rolling Stones: 2021 – No Filter Tour appearance @ the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Some ageless reflections.

Enjoy seeing you in the “E”dition of the Democrat.

Remember, there is always an opening night, in our town.

t A s

[For EFA-62]

(This is the @ Home Edition of Where A r [ts] Thou? Since 5/2020)

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