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Oklahoma! [Royal National Theater] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-Ray)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: December 4, 2012
  • List Price: $29.98

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, one of best musicals of all time, will be familiar to older viewers via the Gordon McRae/Shirley Jones 1955 film, often considered as the definitive version, albeit significantly abridged. You might not think that the Royal National Theater would tackle such a Broadway colossus, but think again when dealing with Trevor Nunn, the director of this 1998 revival. The cast included Hugh Jackman (Curly), Josefina Gabrielle (Laurey), Maureen Lipmann (Aunt Eller), Vicki Simon (Ado Annie), Shuler Hensley (Jud Fry), and Peter Polycarpou (Ali Hakim). Broadway veteran Susan Strohman significantly updated the original choreography. The British public went gaga and the show’s run was not only extended, but relocated to a larger theater. This Oklahoma! received the 1999 Olivier award for Outstanding Musical Production.

The story is simplicity itself. Cowboy Curly McLain is in love with farm girl, Laurey Williams but Laurey’s lonesome farmhand, Jud Fry, also loves her. Subplots include an odd romance between peddler Ali Hakim and Ado Annie (intended for cowpuncher Will Parker played by Jimmy Johnston). A critical moment occurs at the town social attended by all of the principals. Laurey arrives with Jud, while Curly goes with giggling Gertie. A bitter bidding war for Laurey’s picnic basket follows. Curly sells all his possessions to outbid Jud but this just fuels the latter’s hatred for him. Laurey fires Jud after he makes improper advances. Ado Annie and Will reconcile, Ali weds Gertie, and, finally Curly and Laurey prepare for their wedding. Their honeymoon is nearly derailed by a drunken Jud who tries to kill Curley but, instead, falls on his own knife and dies. An ad hoc court exonerates Curly and the couple rides off in a horseless “surrey with the fringe on top.”

Video Quality

[Rating:2.5/5]

The news is not very good. Filmed on a studio soundstage, this production originally appeared on DVD in 2003. Some remastering may have been done for the BD but it is not obvious as this picture is noncompetitive with today’s BDs. Noticeable grain and softness are pervasive. Dark moments like Jud’s smokehouse or the “dream” dance sequence are just plain murky. The minimalist sets provide an adequate sense of place. Colors are a touch muted.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]


The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is two-channel only. The music has a flat sonic perspective that fails to create the illusion of a live theater’s ambience. The singing is a mixed bag. Jackman is a solid if not particularly memorable Curly. Gabrielle, a trained dancer, delivers a rather under-sung and one-dimensional Julie. The standouts are Lippmann, and Hensley. Musical direction under the experienced hand of John Edward Owens is uptempo and exploits this show’s fabulous score.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

There is a behind-the-scenes 24-minute on “The Making of Oklahoma!” that is entertaining and worth the watch. Richard Rodgers’ daughter is delightful raconteuse although I would take issue with her opinion that this show is the best that she has seen it performed.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

Oklahoma! is the very first staged musical that I ever saw. Given its great reception by this West End revival, I had high expectations for its BD release. As production values go, stage and music direction is exemplary, the choreography top-notch and the costumes and sets quite serviceable. The vocal performances are uneven, as noted earlier. My major reservations stem from the video and audio properties since I have seen numerous BDs of similar vintage that look and sound considerably better. The 50th anniversary 2005 DVD reissued in an excellent Cinemascope version (but less than stellar Todd-AO restoration) has a stronger cast from top to bottom (Rod Steiger’s Jud Fry is downright scary). The Dolby 2.0 channel soundtrack may not be as good as the present BD, but is definitely listenable. Where the current BD outpoints its competitor is in the brilliant Susan Strohman dance numbers and the inclusion of two previously cut songs. So what should Oklahoma! lovers do? If you have the 1955 film version, hang on to it. If you want 30 minutes’ more of dancing and singing, then this BD has it. But, with that exception, it is difficult to give a wholehearted recommendation to this release with its obvious audio and video shortcomings. I have heard that there may be a BD reissue of the 1955 film version in the wings: I think that I will wait for that one.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Oklahoma! on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

[amazon-product]B00960EHTK[/amazon-product]

Purchase Oklahoma! on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:2.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]


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