Directed and Choreographed by Sarah Elaine Bailey
Musical Direction by Sharon Dobbins Alberson
Dream Ballet Choreography by Marissa Montigney-Leenaarts
Fight Choreography by John Davis
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II
Original dances by Agnes de Mille
Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
A groundbreaking masterpiece that launched the golden age of the Broadway musical, Oklahoma! spins the tale of the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma at the turn of the twentieth century. This provides a colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story.
Considered a revolutionary show in its 1943 debut, Oklahoma! challenged theatrical boundaries, traditions and conventions. The show was the first to introduce a “dream ballet,” in which a character’s inner thoughts are expressed through an extended dance sequence. And because the musical’s song lyrics were written before the music, the show became one of the first musicals in which the songs drove the dramatic action of the play. In so doing, composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II chose a notable departure from the popular musical plays and operettas of their day, in which songs were often just “dropped in” between plot-driving scenes of dialogue and action.
Featuring such unforgettable songs as “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No” and the show’s stirring title song, Oklahoma! celebrates young love, the enduring spirit of American optimism and the triumph of hope over pessimism.
About the Show's Production History
Oklahoma! launched a new era in the American musical. It also began the most successful songwriting partnership in Broadway history.
In 1942, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were at the top of their field, writing musical comedies universally praised for their wit, sophistication and innovation. A decade earlier Oscar Hammerstein II had been at the top of his field, writing operettas that consistently challenged and reshaped the art form; his Show Boat, written with Jerome Kern in 1927, is considered a landmark of the American stage.
Independent of each other, both Rodgers and Hammerstein were attracted to Lynn Riggs’ folk play of life in his native Oklahoma entitled Green Grow the Lilacs. When Kern declined Hammerstein’s invitation to write the musical adaptation with him, and when Hart bowed out of his commitment to musicalize the work with Rodgers, it was only inevitable that the ensuing musical play would become the first work by the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian — and choreographed by a then-unknown ballet choreographer named Agnes de Mille — Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical version of Green Grow the Lilacs was first entitled Away We Go, and was given its world-premiere engagement at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut in March of 1943. Only a few changes were made on the road, but they were significant. One number, “Boys and Girls Like You and Me,” was cut, and a song about the land originally planned as a duet for Laurey and Curly became instead a show-stopping chorale called “Oklahoma!” So successful was this number during the musical’s pre-Broadway engagement in Boston that the decision was made to add an exclamation point to the title. The show’s creative team also decided to make it the name of the show.
Oklahoma! opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on March 31, 1943. At that time, the longest-running show in Broadway history had run for three years. Oklahoma! surpassed that record by two more years, running for a marathon 2,212 performances before closing on May 29, 1948. The national tour played across the United States for an unprecedented 10 and a half years, visiting every single state, and playing before a combined audience of more than 10 million people. In 1947, Oklahoma! opened at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in London, where it ran for 1,548 performances, the longest run of any show up to that time in the 267-year history of the theatre. In 1953, the Oklahoma State Legislature named “Oklahoma!” the official state song. In 1955, the motion picture version of Oklahoma!, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones and produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein, was released to great success. Broadway has seen four revivals of the musical (in 1951, 1953, 1979 and 2002).
Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company (formerly known as The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization) reports that more than 600 production of Oklahoma! are licensed every year in the United States and Canada alone. Internationally, productions of Oklahoma! Worldwide, Oklahoma! has been translated into over a dozen languages, including French, German, Greek, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Hebrew, Icelandic, Norwegian, Hungarian, Estonian, Dutch and Polish. English-language productions have been seen in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa.
SOURCE: Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company
CLICK HERE to read The Beacon Journal's preview article about the show.
CLICK HERE to read the review of the show on the Knight Foundation's arts blog.
CLICK HERE to read The West Side Leader's review of the show!
Ado Annie Carnes
ERIN ROSE HUNTER
THE CREATIVE TEAM
SARAH ELAINE BAILEY
Director and Choreographer
SHARON DOBBINS ALBERSON
Dream Ballet Choreographer
Assistant Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
JASEN J. SMITH
ALAN SCOTT FERRALL
Assistant Technical Director