Oklahoma! (1955)

This article is about the musical. For the major motion picture based on that musical, see Oklahoma! (1955 film). For other uses, see Oklahoma (disambiguation)


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Oklahoma!
Original Broadway Cast Album
MusicRichard Rodgers
LyricsOscar Hammerstein II
BookOscar Hammerstein II
Based uponLynn Riggs's play
Green Grow the Lilacs
Productions1943 Broadway
1947 West End
1951 Broadway revival
1955 Film
1979 Broadway revival
1980 West End revival
1998 West End revival
2002 Broadway revival
Awards1993 Special Tony Award
(50th Anniversary)


Oklahoma! is the first musical play written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (see Rodgers and Hammerstein). A special Pulitzer Prize award was given to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma! in the category of "Special Awards And Citations - Letters" in 1944. [1]

The original Broadway production opened on March 31 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for a then unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. Originally entitled Away We Go, the musical is based on Lynn Riggs's 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farmer girl Laurey Williams. Their love is challenged by Laurey's threatening farmhand, Jud Fry, and much of the play follows the tension generated by this conflict.

This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier Show Boat, epitomized the development of the "book musical", a musical play where the songs and dances were fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals, that was able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter.[2] In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story more closely than any musical ever had before.[3]

Productions

Original Broadway production
Independently of each other, Rodgers and Hammerstein had been attracted to making a musical based on Lynn Riggs' stage play Green Grow the Lilacs. When Jerome Kern declined Hammerstein's offer to work on such a project, and Hart refused Rodgers' offer to do the same, Rodgers and Hammerstein began their first collaboration together.

The first production was called Away We Go! and opened for out of town tryouts in New Haven's Shubert Theatre during March 1943.[4] Only a few changes were made before it opened on Broadway, but two would prove significant: the addition of a show-stopping musical number, Oklahoma!; and the decision to retitle the musical after it.

The Broadway production opened on March 31 1943 at the St. James Theatre in New York City. At the time, roles in musicals were usually filled by actors who could sing, but Rodgers and Hammerstein chose the reverse, casting singers who could act. As a result, there were also no stars in the production, another unusual step. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starred Alfred Drake (Curly), Joan Roberts (Laurey), Celeste Holm (Ado Annie), Howard Da Silva (Jud Fry), and Betty Garde (Aunt Eller). Marc Platt danced the role of "Dream Curly", and Katharine Sergava danced the part of "Dream Laurey".

The production was choreographed by Agnes de Mille (her first time choreographing a musical on Broadway), who provided one of the show's most notable and enduring features: a 15-minute first-act ballet finale (often referred to as a dream ballet) arising from Laurey's inability to make up her mind between Jud and Curly. The production was a box-office smash and ran for a then unprecedented 2,212 performances. It finally closed on May 29 1948 and was followed by a ten-year national tour, setting another record.

London premiere
Oklahoma! was the first of a post-war wave of Broadway musicals to reach London. It starred Howard Keel (then known as Harold Keel), opening at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on April 30 1947 to rave press reviews and sellout houses, running for 1,543 performances.[5] A pre-London run opened a day late at the Manchester Opera House on April 18 1947, after the ship carrying the cast, scenery, and costumes ran aground on a sandbank off Southampton.[6]

1951 revival
A 1951 revival opened at the Broadway Theatre on May 9 1951, and ran for 100 performances. Ridge Bond played Curley, Patricia Northrop played Laurey, and Henry Clarke was Jud.

1979 Broadway revival
A 1979 revival played at the Palace Theatre, with nine previews beginning on December 6, 1979. The show opened on December 13 1979 and closed on August 24 1980, running for 293 performances. William Hammerstein (Oscar's son) directed, and Gemze de Lappe recreated Agnes De Mille's choreography. The show starred Christine Andreas as Laurey, Laurence Guittard as Curly, Mary Wickes as Aunt Eller, Christine Ebersole as Ado Annie, and Harry Groener (who garnered various awards and nominations for his performance) as Will Parker. This production started as a cross-country national tour, beginning at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles on May 1, 1979. Tour sites include Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center and Oklahoma City.

1980 English revivals
William Hammerstein revived his 1979 Broadway staging in England with a new production at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, in 1980. A UK tour followed. Produced by Emile Littler and Cameron Mackintosh, it moved to London, opening at the Palace Theatre, London, on September 17 1980, and running until September 19 1981. John Diedrich was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a musical, and Alfred Molina was nominated as Most Promising Newcomer. The original cast recording was released by Stiff Records in 1980, catalogue OAK1.[7]

1998 West End production
Enlarge picture
Hugh Jackman on the cover of the DVD of the London revival
A new production of the musical was presented by the National Theatre in London at the Olivier Theatre in 1998. It was directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman. In the cast were Maureen Lipman (Aunt Eller), Jimmy Johnston (Will Parker), Josefina Gabrielle (Laurey Williams), Shuler Hensley (Jud Fry), Vicki Simon (Ado Annie), Peter Polycarpou (Ali Hakim) and Hugh Jackman (Curly McLain) in his English stage debut. The limited engagement was a sell-out and broke all previous box office records,[8] and so the show was transferred to the Lyceum Theatre in London's West End for a six-month run. Plans to transfer to Broadway with the London cast were thwarted by Actors' Equity, which insisted on American actors. The production was filmed and issued on DVD, and it garnered a number of Olivier Awards and nominations.

2002 Broadway production
Several years later, the National Theatre production opened on Broadway at the George Gershwin Theatre on March 21, 2002, and ran for 388 performances. Only two of the London cast--Josefina Gabrielle and Shuler Hensley--were in the production, which also featured Patrick Wilson as Curly and Andrea Martin as Aunt Eller. This revival was well received and won special praise for its innovative and evocative stage sets. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards, and Shuler Hensley won the award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. The show was also nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards, with Hensley winning as Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical and Susan Stroman winning for choreography.

2006 Japan production
In 2006 Oklahoma! was performed in Japan by the all-female Takarazuka Revue. This revival starred Yuu Todoroki, Ai Shirosaki, and Hiromu Kiriya.

Plot summary

Act I
Curly, a cowboy, is in love with Laurey, a farm girl, but they both are too proud and stubborn to show it. A rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights leads to tension even in romance. Curly looks forward to the beautiful day ahead ("Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'"). He and Laurey tease each other while Laurey's Aunt Eller looks on ("Surrey With The Fringe On Top"). The sinister and dark-hearted outsider farm hand, Jud Fry, also sets his sights on Laurey. He asks her to the "Box Social", a dance that includes an auction of lunch baskets prepared by the local girls. She accepts to spite Curly. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker, returns bedazzled from a trip to the relatively modern Kansas City ("Kansas City"). But he is upset that his girlfriend, Ado Annie, invites romancing ("I Cain't Say No") from other men-–especially the peddler, Ali Hakim, who appreciates her passion but doesn't want to get married ("It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!").

Curly finds out that Laurey is going to the Box Social with Jud and tries to convince her to go with him instead. Afraid to tell Jud she won't go with him, Laurey warns Curly off by telling him that "People Will Say We're in Love." Hurt by her refusal, Curly goes to the smokehouse where Jud lives, and the rivals have an ominous confrontation ("Pore Jud Is Daid"). After Curly leaves, Jud's resolve to win Laurey becomes even stronger ("Lonely Room"). Confused and fraught by her feelings for Curly and her fear of Jud, Laurey muses ("Out of My Dreams"), then falls asleep, dreaming ("Dream Ballet") of what marriage to Curly would be like. Her dream takes a nightmarish turn when Jud replaces Curly, and she can't escape him. She wakes from her nightmare and reluctantly leaves with Jud to go to the Box Social.

Act II
At the social, the farmers and ranchers make peace ("The Farmer and the Cowman") in a teasing way. Curly outbids Jud in the auction for Laurey's basket, which, as is apparent to all watching, has really turned into a battle for Laurey herself. Later that night Will and Ado Annie work out their differences ("All Or Nothin'"). Jud confronts Laurey about his feelings for her. When she admits that she doesn't return them, he threatens her. She then fires him as her farm hand and screams at him to get off her property. Furious, Jud leaves; Laurey bursts into tears and calls for Curly, who comes to her rescue. They finally admit their love for each other ("People Will Say We're In Love," reprise).

Three weeks later, a drunken Jud reappears at Curly and Laurey's wedding. He attacks Curly and in the ensuing confrontation accidentally falls on his own knife, killing himself. The wedding guests must hold a makeshift trial for Curly. The judge, Ado Annie's father, declares the verdict "not guilty!", and everyone, especially a terrified Laurey, rejoices ("Oklahoma!") in celebration of the territory's impending statehood. After more rejoicing, Curly and Laurey depart on their honeymoon.

Musical numbers

Act I

Act II



The 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine, which lampoons older operettas and musicals, has two songs that poke fun at songs from Oklahoma! "Once in a Blue Moon" parodies "All Er Nuthin," and "Mata Hari" parodies "I Cain't Say No."

Original cast recording

Most of the songs from Oklahoma! were released as box set by Decca Records in 1943 containing six double-sided discs in 78 RPM format. It was designated as Decca Album 359. The box set sold over a million copies, prompting the label to call the cast back into the studio to record three additional selections that had been left out of the first set. These were issued as Decca Album 383, "Oklahoma! Volume Two." In 1949, Decca re-released the first set on LP but not the second set, which soon became a very rare collectors' item. All subsequent LP releases were similarly incomplete. Finally in 2000, Decca Broadway went back to the original glass masters to generate a new high fidelity transfer of the complete song program and released it on CD, utilizing the original 78 album artwork.

The success of the original "Oklahoma!" cast album led to many more recordings by the original casts, such as Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun, Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza in South Pacific, and Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady.

Later original cast recordings of Oklahoma! were made of the 1979 Broadway revival and the 1998 London production. There have also been studio cast recordings starring Nelson Eddy and John Raitt, as well as a film soundtrack album featuring the cast of the 1955 movie version.

Awards and nominations

1947 Theatre World Award

1980 Tony Award nominations

1980 Theatre World Award

  • Theatre World Award - Harry Groener (WINNER)

1980 Drama Desk Award nominations

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Harry Groener, Martin Vidnovic

1993 Tony Award

2002 Tony Award nominations

2002 Theatre World Award

  • Theatre World Award - Justin Bohon (WINNER)

2002 Drama Desk Award nominations

  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical - Produced by Cameron Mackintosh
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Patrick Wilson
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Justin Bohon, Shuler Hensley (WINNER)
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Andrea Martin
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography - Susan Stroman (WINNER)
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical - Trevor Nunn
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Musical - Anthony Ward
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design - David Hersey

Cultural references

  • In the mid-1940s, radio comedian Fred Allen parodied "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" by changing the lyrics and retitling the tune "Union Suit with the Hinge on the Back." The parody was so well received that it was repeated on subsequent programs.
  • The title song became the official state song of Oklahoma in 1953. (Oklahoma became a state on November 16,1907.)
  • The songs "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "Oklahoma!" were spoofed in the animated film . One of the spoofs is the song "Uncle Fucka," which parodies the spelled-out O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A of the musical's title song. A similar spoof is heard in the musical Curtains.
  • In the The Simpsons episode "Milhouse of Sand and Fog", the character Milhouse briefly imagines himself and Bart singing "The Farmer and the Cowman".
  • Sesame Street featured a muppet named "Forgetful Jones" singing the title song from "Oklahoma!" but forgetting how it began, trying "Aaaaaa-klahoma", "Eeeeee-klahoma" and "Iiiiii-klahoma".
  • A Tiny Toon Adventures episode called "Ducklahoma" is a spoof of "Oklahoma" directed by Buster Bunny involving many anvils.
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Polly serenades the guests with a rendition of "I Cain't Say No".
  • In an episode of The Office, "The Client," Dwight Schrute comments, "Yes, I have acted before. I was in a production of Oklahoma! in the seventh grade. I played the part of Mutey the Mailman. They had too many kids so they made up roles like that. I was good."

References

1. ^ Information from the Pulitzer.org website
2. ^ The Cambridge Companion to the Musical, edited by William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird, Chapter by Thomas L. Riis with Ann Sears and William A. Everett, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0 521 79189 8, p. 137
3. ^ Wilk, Max. OK! The Story of Oklahoma!: A Celebration of America's Most Beloved Musical. Rev. ed. New York: Applause Books, 2002. ISBN 1-557-83555-1
4. ^ Information from Capa.com
5. ^ Who's Who in the Theatre, 11th edition, 1952. See also The Times review, May 1, 1947.
6. ^ Chronicle of the 20th Century, entry for April 14 1947: "Southampton, The luxury liner RMS Queen Elizabeth runs aground." See also article by Dr Anthony Field in The Stage newspaper, January 9, 1997.
7. ^ Information about this production, including a full cast list
8. ^ Interview with Hensley regarding the production

External links

Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance. The emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – as well as the story itself, is communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the
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The 1943 musical play Oklahoma!, written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (see Rodgers and Hammerstein), was adapted into an Academy Award–winning musical film in 1955, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones (in
..... Click the link for more information.
Oklahoma can refer to:
  • Oklahoma, a state in the United States of America
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the state's capital city
  • Oklahoma City bombing, a 1995 terrorist event in the city

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Richard Charles Rodgers (June 28 1902 – December 30 1979) was one of the great composers of musical theater, best known for his song writing partnerships with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. He wrote more than 900 published songs, and forty Broadway musicals.
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Oscar Hammerstein II (IPA: /ˈhæmɚstaɪn/) (born Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein[1]) (July 12, 1895 – August 23, 1960) was an American writer, producer[2]
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Oscar Hammerstein II (IPA: /ˈhæmɚstaɪn/) (born Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein[1]) (July 12, 1895 – August 23, 1960) was an American writer, producer[2]
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Lynn Riggs (August 31, 1899- June 29, 1954) was an author and playwright from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

He was educated at the Eastern University Preparatory School in Claremore, Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma, but did not graduate.
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Green Grow the Lilacs is a folk song of Irish origin that was popular in the United States during the mid 1800s.

The song title is familiar as the source of an extremely dubious popular etymology for the word gringo, supposedly being a Hispanicization of "green grow," which
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A revival is a restaging of a former hit play at a later date. New material may be added.

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The 1943 musical play Oklahoma!, written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (see Rodgers and Hammerstein), was adapted into an Academy Award–winning musical film in 1955, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones (in
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Broadway theatre[1] is the most well known form of professional theatre to the American general public and most lucrative for the performers, technicians and others involved in putting on the shows.
..... Click the link for more information.
A revival is a restaging of a former hit play at a later date. New material may be added.

A filmed version of a play is said to be an adaptation. This requires the writing of a screenplay.
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West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre in London, England, or sometimes more specifically for shows staged in the large theatres of London's "Theatreland".
..... Click the link for more information.
A revival is a restaging of a former hit play at a later date. New material may be added.

A filmed version of a play is said to be an adaptation. This requires the writing of a screenplay.
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..... Click the link for more information.
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A revival is a restaging of a former hit play at a later date. New material may be added.

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