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Oklahoma! (Blu-ray Review)

One of the most widely known musicals of all time from one of the most well known musical makers of all time, Rogers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! has been part of the cultural lexicon since it arrived in 1943. Sure, maybe you’ve never seen it done on Broadway, by a local theater troupe, a high school production or even the film adaptation, but you probably know a song or three from it as well as a name or a line or two. Its been that stapled into pop culture. I mean…who doesn’t know “Oh what a beautiful morning…” or hasn’t made a darkly humored joke using the song? Shout! Broadway is bringing a rendition of the classic musical from 1999 that stars Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman right before that whole X-Men thing launched. You can pre-order this to see his berzerker rage held in check to have it on release day May 30th.

Film 

The magic and energy of live theatre comes to home video in this triumphant 1998 mounting of one of the most beloved and timeless musicals ever to grace the stage. Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables, The Prestige) and Maureen Lipman (The Pianist) star in the multi-award-winning Royal National Theatre production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic, Oklahoma!Directed by theatre legend Trevor Nunn and starring an outstanding ensemble (including Josefina Gabrielle, Shuler Hensley, and Jimmy Johnston), Oklahoma! shines brighter than any marquee on Broadway. This beloved, time-tested musical features some of theatre’s most delightfully hummable songs, including “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’” and the joyous title tune, “Oklahoma!”

This 1999 performance of Oklahoma proves to be quite engaging for a filmed live theatre production. Not only is the stage impressive, but the multiple camera angles and movements end up being quite impressive. This couple with other elements really put you into the thick of things where you forget you’re even watching what exactly you’re watching. The obvious sets and such wind up not even being noticeable.  Its pretty impressive how they pull this off and it took me by surprise. There are shots looking out to the audience that will remind you, but for the most part it does draw you in quite well.

Hugh Jackman is just a joy in this. Obviously I’m going to talk about him, because he broke out to become a big star after this. But, this just goes to show what a hell of a range this man has. Look at his career. This guy can be loveable and light hearted, but can get dark like he does for character like his in Prisoners or The Prestige and of course his iconic role as Logan/Wolverine. Its all the same man. He does the screen and the stage to the highest degree. Its just damn impressive.

I haven’t seen Oklahoma! in forever. Probably since the 90s, actually. I entered being like, “Now what was this about and what were the songs” and it took not a line of “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” for me to be like OOOOHHH YEAH. As hillbilly as this is, I enjoy that the songs are nowhere near country. And there is some solid, fun humor and charm. However, while there is all that, this thing is still 3 damn hours long. Being present and in person for this, yeah, I’m sure it flies by better. But watching this at home…woof. I’ll take that intermission. Even so, I still liked it, it just took a chunk of my day to get through.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 108op

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Oklahoma! drops on this new Shout! Factory Blu-ray with a nice little polished presentation. Being it was 1999, this was shot on film. With how well lit the film is, it has a wonderfully three dimensional look ot it. Its pretty impressive looking for most of it, with really good details and a strong image. Sometimes it can go into a little soft look, but that’s due to the nature of the shoot and the lighting. Overall, its a really impressive looking picture.

Depth:  With this being on stage and film with a good transfer, it has some moments of a really nice 3 dimensional appeal with a good camera movement or solid medium or far shot. Movements are natural with no real blur or jittering problems.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and som detail can disappear on them in hair or a dark suit. No crushing witnessed during this review. But, I will say, there are some nighttime scenes that absolutely gorgeous.

Color Reproduction:  Colors pop pretty good with no real sense of bleeding. Blues, reds and yellows all pop and feel well rounded and bold. Browns feature a strong palette too with a nice full look.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are pretty white with a little yellow sheen on them, probably from the lighting and reflection of the backdrop. Facial details are okay in medium shots and in close ups you can see stubble, make-up and skin blemishes and dimples/lines. You can also see sweat glistening off people as well.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a filmed stage production, so it does carry some echo’ing and it sounds very closely mic’d in terms of sounds. But with the orchestra and the ambient recordings playing, it sounds pretty well mixed. Some of the songs gave me the impression a professional studio recording may have been added in post but I can’t confirm that. The music and some mic bumps give off some strong bass. Overall this is exactly all you need from this track and it does what it does well.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp with a little stage echo. Diction is very good and lapel mic sounding most of the time.

Extras 

The Making Of Oklahoma! (SD, 24:04) – A vintage behind-the-scenes featurette with a sort of reflection on bringing this particular rendition to television and recording it. It does feature some interview (During the rehearsals I’m sure as he’s in costume) segments with Hugh Jackman.

Musical Numbers – Skip right to your favorite song. This feature also follows along with the film, so if you were wondering what the title of the song is, you can pull up the pop up menu and it will be marked.

Summary 

Oh What A Beautiful Blu-ray, right? Oklahoma! still has some solid fun and charm. The highlight of going back to this version is Hugh Jackman obviously. Shout! Factory gives a pretty impressive presentation in both video and audio. The disc also carries a pretty solid Making Of with it as well. I’d say this is for musical fans only, really. Hugh Jackman fans, yeah, you too.  Straight up, Logan-only fans…nooooooooo.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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