Saturday, August 23, 2014

6 Things I Know You Forgot about Oklahoma!

This Musical no longer gets my stamp of approval!

By Terri Lively

When I saw that the local theatre company was staging Oklahoma! I thought, “Wow! A wholesome, family friendly musical for me and the kids.” So I bought tickets, got them all excited about going to the show, and celebrated the initiation of their training for proper musical theatre nerd status.

It wasn’t until we were halfway through the show that I remembered how weird the musical Oklahoma! is. So I composed a list, because I am sure that you forgot these things, too.

6 Things You Probably Forgot about Oklahoma!

1.     It’s kind of racist. For whatever reason, the Oklahoma territory had regular visits from traveling Persian named Ali Hakim. The part was originally written with Groucho Marx in mind, although why I am sure I don’t know. Everyone refers to him as the Per-si-an (with much emphasis on each drawl-ridden syllables), which is fine, I suppose, as long as you are wearing your pillowcase over your head.

2.     Laurey’s a huffer. Thanks to our per-si-an friend, Laurey dabbles in inhalant abuse, sniffing the wicked vapors of the Egyptian Smelling Salts he sells her. Why? Because she can’t decide what to do about who is going to take her to the box social (more on that later). Of course, even Wikipedia knows that he slipped her opium (can’t trust those per-si-ans). It’s no wonder she has such a bad trip in the dream ballet sequence. Just say no, Laurey!

3.     Aunt Eller commits a felony. When the farmer and the cowman clearly can’t be friends and fisticuffs ensue, cheerful and gregarious Aunt Eller fires a shotgun in the air and threatens to shoot whoever can’t get back to gaily dancing, like a regular 50 Cent on the Prairie. Later at the end of the play we learn that both a federal marshal and judge were present at the gathering, both of whom she threatened with a deadly weapon.

4.     They have a "Box Social." Yep. The second act begins with an unfortunately named event where men bid top dollar to eat the woman’s goodies in her basket. The woman has to turn over her goods to the highest bidder, whether she wants to or not. And even though not one woman brings her goodies in anything other than a basket, they still call it a box social. I don’t make this stuff up, people.

5.    Curley’s friends are tools. When it’s obvious to everyone that creepy Jud is about to help himself to Laurey’s goodies (against her will, I might add), no one tries to save her by bidding more money for her basket. One of the characters even says, “Too rich for my blood, Aunt Eller!” However, when Curley desperately tries to get Laurey’s goodies in his own safe hands by selling all his valuables at fire sale prices, all of sudden people have $10 for a saddle or $18 for a gun (no three-day wait period or background checks in the territory, I guess).  Funny, just a minute ago you didn’t have $6.50 to save an innocent girl from aggravated picnicking.  Tools.

6.    Mob mentality rules on the farm. I thought that mob mentality trial by your peers was reserved for places like Gotham City after the bad guys blow the bridges. But when Curly stabs Jud in the struggle and cries out “He fell on his own knife!,” Aunt Eller and company decide that a trial in the farmyard is sufficient justice for the stabbing of old Jud. When the marshal tries to move this proceeding to a court as is required by federal law, he is told in no uncertain terms to, “Shut Up!” Last night that line was delivered by a furious little old man in a menacing tone. The judge declares Curley “not guilty” and everyone forgets they just saw a man stabbed to death, cheering as the happy couple leaves town in the getaway Surrey.

When I thought of taking my two older kids to this heartwarming tale of life and love in the 46th state, I was thinking of surrey’s with fringe on top and the scurrying of chicks, ducks and geese. What you get once you settle into your theatre seat, however, is a weird mix of morally questionable situations, from racial profiling to illegal drug use to loosey-goosey gun laws. Before last night, the thing I remembered most about Oklahoma! was how to spell it.

Maybe next time we should just go to a nice, family musical…like Sweeney Todd.