I Do Love a Good Show Tune (part 3)
You know, I’m starting to think I’ll be able to milk these show tune pieces until the end of the year! I haven’t touched movie musicals yet!
As I said when I started this series, I grew up listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. My parents loved them and had a big teak stereogram in the corner of the lounge room where they used to store their records. The deep, rich tone of that stereo was amazing – there’s something to be said for a huge piece of furniture designed just to play music. Hmm, I suppose a piano would fit that description too. And a double bass.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein first worked together in 1943 on Oklahoma! I’m not crazy about the movie version of this although the score is lovely but I’ve seen a stage production and loved it. Especially “OOOOOOOOOOOK-lahoma, where the wind comes rushing down the plain” sung with uninhibited vigor. When you’re in a theatre, that nearly lifts your hair off, it’s so powerful.
Their next show in 1945 was Carousel. My parents really loved this show and it was one they played a lot. The score is beautiful – if you get a chance, check out John Raitt and Jan Clayton doing the long “If I Loved You” scene, it’s heartbreakingly good – but the story is extremely grim. I can remember spending hours dancing around the lounge to the “Carousel Waltz” too – it’s such a vivid, lilting piece of music.
The next one in my parents’ collection was South Pacific (1949). I think, along with The Sound of Music (which you’ve already heard enough about, I know!), it’s my favorite R&H musical. I first saw this performed by an amateur group in Ipswich, Queensland, where I went to boarding school and I loved the story of the collision of cultures during World War II. I’ve since seen the film and again, don’t think it’s nearly as effective as the stage show. This score is full of magnificent music – “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Younger than Springtime”, “This Nearly Was Mine”, “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair”. It’s so packed with gems, it’s hard to pick highlights. Just for a treat, check out the wonderful Mandy Patinkin singing “Younger than Springtime.”
When I was a kid, a real favorite, both as movie and as soundtrack was The King and I (1951). I think I responded to all the children in the story and I loved Yul Brynner who is portrayed as an interesting mixture of perspicacious ruler and spoiled child. I think it’s one where the movie really does match up to the stage show – or at least the version of the stage show that I’ve seen. I particularly love the “Shall We Dance” scene. All that repressed longing and sexual tension? Wow! Even as a kid, that scene struck me as powerful.
The final R&H musical in my parents’ collection was the fabulous The Sound of Music (1959). Just one little bit about TSOM – I think it’s one where the movie actually works better than the stage show. All that spectacular Austrian scenery really lights up the wide screen. I remember being spellbound by those swooping aerial shots of the Alps and the castles and the beautiful green valleys.
Check back next month for movie musicals – I’m already practising singin’ in the rain!