You probably know Hugh Jackman from the X-Men movies, and you may have heard that he's drawing raves for his Broadway performance as the late entertainer Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz. Well, this Great Performances presentation captures the Aussie actor's magnetic stage presence onscreen. It's a film version of Trevor Nunn's London revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical-theater classic, starring Jackman as singing cowboy Curly.
From the moment he launches into the familiar opening number, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin', " Jackman takes ownership of the show with his clear, supple voice and easy charm. But there's a touching vulnerability to this Curly, despite his bragging and strutting. Strong as he is, we can tell he'll be crushed if he doesn't win the heart of hard-to-get Laurey (Josefina Gabrielle). When the two finally quit hiding their feelings, Curly's spontaneous proposal of marriage will give even non-romantics a joyous rush.
Shuler Hensley gives a disturbingly powerful performance as Jud, the violent hired hand who wants Laurey for himself. (He won a Tony Award when he reprised his London role on Broadway.) Maureen Lipman (Adrien Brody's mother in The Pianist) is appropriately tart and nonsense as Laurey's Aunt Eller. But directors Nunn and Chris Hunt, who filmed Oklahoma! largely at London's Shepperton Studios, err by including gratuitous shots of an applauding audience at the Royal National Theatre. And the supposedly comic triangle of Ado Annie (Vicki Simon), Will (Jimmy Johnston) and Ali the peddler (Peter Polycarpou) is scarcely good for a titter.