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Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Oklahoma!" And "Top Banana"

These two Broadway shows have never previously been linked in any way.
But they actually had a great deal in common.
Films made from these two shows were both major abominations.
With "Oklahoma!",  I'm not referring to the 1955 film that starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
This version was quite acceptable, even though much of the humor was lost.
It was a quite sincere rendition of the show, much like the NBC "Sound of Music" was quite sincere.
What I am referring to is the 2011 filmed version done by the Royal Nationall Theatre of Great Britain, which starred Hugh Jackman, and a bunch of other Brits.
What I learned before I saw this production on PBS by seeing other live performances of it is just how FUNNY the show is.
And how audience-dependent it is for it's laughs.
"Oklahoma!" is a show that was always audience dependent.
Agnes DeMille, the original choreographer, was interviewed about the original production, which took place in 1943.
She talked about how the show's audience was always filled with soldiers and sailors, about to be shipped out to most-likely meet their doom.
It reminded them of what they were fighting for.
The audience contributed mightily to the success of "Oklahoma!"
In the Hugh Jackman production, as good as it was on so many levels, they created the pretense of there being a live audience there to witness it.
You saw them filing in.
The overture started, and you never heard from them again until the final curtain calls.
The cast played it for all the laughs that were there.
They got no laughs from the "audience".
There was no applause from the audience after any musical number.
It was missing in action.
And I do mean "missing".
It was an obvious attempt to create the illusion that there was a live audience.
The critical reaction was praise for bringing out the "drama" that existed in the text.
But no criticism for letting the comedy fall flat as a pancake.

""Top Banana" was a somewhat different animal.
The filming was done completely on the cheap.
They simply went into the theatre where it was being performed, and shot a very theatrical performance of the show.
The only problem was that there was no live audience.
It was as if they filmed a dress rehearsal in the middle of the run.
It was about burlesque, and you could tell that many funny things were supposed to be happening.
I mean, it had Phil Silvers in the lead, and all.
And even so, some of it was hilarious.
But some of it was painfully terrible.
Not helped at all by the lack of an audience.
There was an occasional "stock shot" of an audience applauding, but that didn't fool anybody.
Why weren't they laughing?
Some shows are simply audience dependent, and without them, why bother?
Like I said, "The Sound of Music" at least stayed true to itself.


My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."