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Oklahoma!
Okla bway 1943.jpg
Original Broadway Cast Album
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II
Book Oscar Hammerstein II
Basis Lynn Riggs' play
Green Grow the Lilacs
Productions 1943 Broadway
1947 West End
1951 Broadway revival
1955 Film
1979 Broadway revival
1980 West End revival
1998 West End revival
2002 Broadway revival
Awards 1993 Special Tony Award
(50th Anniversary)

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 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 farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns flirtatious Ado Annie and her long-suffering fiancé Will Parker.

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.[1]

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 are fully integrated into a well-made story, with serious dramatic goals, that is 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] A special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma! in the category of "Special Awards And Citations - Letters" in 1944.[4]

Contents

Background

In 1931, the Theatre Guild produced Lynn Riggs's Green Grow the Lilacs, a play about settlers in Oklahoma's Indian Territory. Though the play was not successful, ten years later in 1941, Theresa Helburn, one of the Guild's producers, saw a summer-stock production supplemented with traditional folk songs and square dances and decided the play could be the basis of a musical that might revive the struggling Guild. She contacted Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, whose first successful collaboration, The Garrick Gaieties, had been produced by the Theatre Guild in 1925. Though Rodgers wanted to work on the project, Hart refused and embarked on a vacation to Mexico. Rodgers then asked Oscar Hammerstein II to collaborate with him. Jerome Kern had previously declined Hammerstein's offer to work on a musical version of Green Grow The Lilacs, and Hammerstein eagerly agreed to work with Rodgers on such a project.[5]

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.[citation needed] 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 the dream ballet) depicting Laurey's struggle to evaluate her suitors, Jud and Curly.

The first title given to the work was Away We Go! which opened for out-of-town-tryouts in New Haven's Shubert Theatre during March 1943.[6] Only a few changes were made before it opened on Broadway, but two would prove significant: the addition of the show-stopping musical number, Oklahoma! and the decision to retitle the musical after that number.

Plot

Act I

In Oklahoma territory in 1906, cowboy Curly McLain looks forward to the beautiful day ahead as he wanders into farmgirl Laurey Williams's yard ("Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"). He and Laurey tease each other, while Laurey's Aunt Eller looks on. There will be a box social dance that night, which includes an auction of lunch baskets prepared by the local girls (to raise funds for a schoolhouse). The man who wins each lunch basket will eat the lunch with the girl who prepared it. Curly asks Laurey to go with him, but she refuses. He attempts to persuade her by telling her that he will take her in the finest carriage money can buy, "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top", but she teases him about it until he says he made it up to get back at her, and Laurey flounces off, not realizing that Curly really has rented such a rig.

The sinister and dark-hearted farm hand Jud Fry has set his sights on Laurey and asks her to the dance. She accepts to spite Curly, despite being afraid of Jud. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker returns bedazzled and souvenir-laden from a trip to modern "Kansas City". He won $50 at the fair, which, according to his girlfriend Ado Annie's father, is the money he needs to marry Ado Annie. Unfortunately, he spent all the money on gifts for her. Ado Annie confesses to Laurey that while he's been away, she has been spending a lot of time with Ali Hakim, a Persian peddler. Laurey tells her she'll have to choose between them, but Ado Annie insists she loves them both ("I Cain't Say No"). Laurey and her friends prepare for the social, while Gertie flirts with Curly (her obnoxious laugh floating in to taunt Laurey). "Many a New Day" is Laurey's response to her friend's worry that she's overcome by Curly and Gertie's flirtation; her vain attempt to assure them she doesn't really care for him.

Ado Annie's father, Andrew Carnes, discovers her with Ali Hakim. After questioning Ado Annie about her relationship with the peddler, he forces Hakim at gunpoint to agree to marry Ado Annie. Hakim and the other men conclude that "It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!" Curly discovers 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 playfully warns Curly off ("People Will Say We're In Love"). Hurt by her refusal, Curly goes to the smokehouse where Jud lives, and Curly suggests that since Jud does not feel appreciated, he could hang himself and everyone would realize how much they care about him ("Pore Jud is Daid"). Their talk turns into an ominous confrontation, punctuated by alarming but harmless gunplay. Once Curly departs, Jud's resolve to win Laurey becomes even stronger – he is tired of being on his own in his "Lonely Room".

Confused by her feelings for Curly and her fear of Jud, Laurey purchases a "magic potion" (really a bottle of smelling salts with some laudanum) from Ali Hakim, which the unscrupulous peddler guarantees will reveal her true love. She muses on leaving her dreams of love behind and joining the man she loves ("Out of My Dreams"), then falls asleep under the influence of the laudanum ("Dream Sequence"). An extended ballet sequence follows. Laurey first dreams of what marriage to Curly would be like. Her dream takes a nightmarish turn when Jud kills Curly, and she cannot escape him, confused by her desires. The dream makes her realize that Curly is the right man for her, but it is too late to change her mind about going to the dance with Jud; he has come for her, and they leave for the box social.

Act II

At the social, the menfolk join in an upbeat barn dance. A rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights has led to tension. Both sides state the merits of their way of life, while Aunt Eller tries – and eventually succeeds – in getting them to make peace ("The Farmer and the Cowman"). Laurey is upset when she sees Curly at the dance with Gertie Cummings, a silly girl with an obnoxious laugh. The auction starts out frivolously but becomes much more serious when Laurey's basket comes up for auction. Jud has saved all his money for months so he can win Laurey's basket. Curly is so determined to outbid Jud that he sells his prized possessions: his saddle, his horse, and even his gun; without these, Curly can no longer be a cowboy and will have to become a farmer. Curly outbids Jud and wins the basket. Will bids $50 on Ado Annie's basket in hopes of getting her for a wife, but without the $50, he would no longer have the money her father insisted he needs to "purchase" marriage with Ado Annie. Desperate to be rid of Ado Annie, the peddler bids $51 and gets the basket so that Will can approach Andrew Carnes with his $50 and claim Ado Annie as his bride. Later that night, Will and Annie work out their differences ("All Er Nuthin'").

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, screaming at him to get off her property. Jud furiously threatens Laurey before he departs. Laurey bursts into tears and calls for Curly. She tells him that she has fired Jud and is frightened by what Jud might do now. Curly, seeing that she has turned to him for guidance and safety, reassures her and proposes to her, and she accepts ("People Will Say We're In Love" (Reprise)).

Three weeks later, a drunken Jud reappears after Curly and Laurey's wedding. He attacks Curly with a knife. As Curly dodges a blow, Jud falls on his own knife and dies on the spot. At Aunt Eller's urging, the wedding guests hold a makeshift trial for Curly. The judge, Ado Annie's father, declares the verdict: "not guilty!" and everyone rejoices ("Oklahoma!") in celebration of the territory's impending statehood. After more rejoicing, Curly and Laurey depart on their honeymoon in the surrey with the fringe on top.

Principal roles and notable stage performers

Character Description Notable stage performers
Curly McLain A cowboy in love with Laurey Alfred Drake°, Howard Keel, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Wilson, Laurence Guittard, John Cotter , Lance Smith
Laurey Williams Aunt Eller's niece, an independent young woman Joan Roberts°, Christine Andreas, Leila Benn Harris, Shirley Jones, Josefina Gabrielle , Florence Henderson
Jud Fry A hired hand on Aunt Eller's ranch, a mysterious and dangerous loner Howard Da Silva°, Shuler Hensley, Alfred Molina
Aunt Eller Laurey's aunt, a respected community leader Betty Garde°, Mary Wickes, Andrea Martin, Patty Duke, Margaret Hamilton, Maureen Lipman, Louise Plowright
Ado Annie Carnes A flirtatious, gullible young woman Celeste Holm°, Shelley Winters, Christine Ebersole, Jessica Boevers
Will Parker A simple young man in love with Ado Annie Lee Dixon°, Harry Groener
Andrew Carnes Ado Annie's father, eager to have her marry Ralph Riggs°
Ali Hakim A Persian peddler, enamored of Ado Annie Joseph Buloff°, Eddie Albert, Peter Polycarpou, Bruce Adler, Jamie Farr

° denotes original Broadway cast

Musical numbers

Act I
Act II

Productions

Original Broadway production

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre in New York City. It was directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starred Alfred Drake (Curly), Joan Roberts (Laurey), Celeste Holm (Ado Annie), Howard Da Silva (Jud Fry), Betty Garde (Aunt Eller), Lee Dixon (Will Parker) and Joseph Bullof (Ali Hakim). Marc Platt danced the role of "Dream Curly", and Katharine Sergava danced the part of "Dream Laurey". Choreographer Agnes de Mille originally wanted comedian Groucho Marx to play the part of Ali Hakim, but after Rodgers objected, the production team cast Bullof. The production was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. It finally closed on May 29, 1948 and was followed by a ten-year national tour, setting yet 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.[7] 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.[8]

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, Henry Clarke was Jud, and Jacqueline Sundt played Ado Annie.

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 as Will Parker. The production also had the distinction of having on board the show's original Musical Director. Andreas and Groener both received Tony Award nominations for their performances. This production started as a cross-country national tour, beginning at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles on May 1, 1979. Tour sites include Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center and Oklahoma City.

1980 British 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 for an Olivier as Most Promising Newcomer. The original cast recording was released by Stiff Records in 1980, catalogue OAK1.[9]

1998 West End production
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. John Owen Edwards was Music Director. William David Brohn added fresh orchestrations, adding to Robert Russell Bennett's incredible originals. 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 British stage debut. The limited engagement was a sell-out and broke all previous box office records,[10] 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. Shuler Hensley won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performer.

2002 Broadway production

Several years later, the National Theatre production opened on Broadway at the George Gershwin Theatre on March 21, 2002. The production closed on February 23, 2003 after 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. The production went on to tour nationally from 2003 - 2006.

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.

2010 UK Tour

A brand new production of the show will tour the United Kingdom starting in March 2010 at the Bournemouth Pavilion. Marti Webb stars as Aunt Eller, with Mark Evans as Curly.[11]

Original cast recording

Most of the songs from Oklahoma! were released a record album by Decca Records in 1943 containing six 10-inch double-sided discs in 78 RPM format. It was designated as Decca Album 359 and was one of the first original cast albums ever released. The album 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 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: Dorothea MacFarland

1980 Tony Award nominations

1980 Theatre World Award: Theatre World Award - Harry Groener

1980 Drama Desk Award nominations: for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Harry Groener and Martin Vidnovic

1993 Special Tony Award: Oklahoma! (50th Anniversary)

1998 Critics' Circle Theatre Award: for Best Musical - Oklahoma!

1998 Evening Standard Award: for Best Musical - Oklahoma!

1999 Laurence Olivier Awards
2002 Tony Award and nominations

2002 Theatre World Award: Justin Bohon (WINNER)

2002 Drama Desk Awards and nominations
  • Outstanding Revival of a Musical - Produced by Cameron Mackintosh (nomination)
  • Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Patrick Wilson (nomination)
  • Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Justin Bohon, Shuler Hensley (WINNER)
  • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Andrea Martin (nomination)
  • Outstanding Choreography - Susan Stroman (WINNER)
  • Outstanding Director of a Musical - Trevor Nunn (nomination)
  • Outstanding Set Design of a Musical - Anthony Ward (nomination)
  • Outstanding Lighting Design - David Hersey (nomination)

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 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. 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 Kermit the Frog as a director making the movie "Oklahoma" and Forgetful Jones singing the title song from "Oklahoma!" along with a chorus of cows and horses, but forgetting how it began, trying "Aaaaaa-klahoma", "Eeeeee-klahoma" and "Iiiiii-klahoma". When he does get it right, the lady announcing the takes calls a cut because its lunchtime, and one of the horses interacts with the haystack that handled the camera.
  • A Tiny Toon Adventures episode called "Ducklahoma" is a spoof of "Oklahoma" directed by Buster Bunny involving many anvils that fall on Plucky Duck as revenge for Plucky ruining Buster's movie "Furball on the roof" (a parody of Fiddler on the roof).
  • In the Fawlty Towers episode "Gourmet Night", Polly serenades the guests with a rendition of "I Cain't Say No".
  • In an episode of Band of Brothers, Captain Nixon mentions that Oklahoma! was still on Broadway, causing the soldiers to break out in song.
  • In The West Wing second season episode "17 People", Joshua Lyman refers to Donna Moss as Ado Annie during their argument about his buying her flowers.
  • On an episode of The Muppet Show, a spoof of "Oklahoma" was performed by large Muppets dressed as Samurai warriors and was titled "Yokohama". The song was interrupted several times by Fozzie Bear, dressed as a cowboy, singing "Oklahoma".
  • In an episode of The Brak Show, the characters perform a musical merger of Psycho and Oklahoma! called, "Psychoklahoma," featuring similar songs as those from Oklahoma!, but following the plot from Psycho.
  • In the film When Harry Met Sally..., Harry and Sally are singing a karaoke version of "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" when Harry's ex-wife walks into the store with her new husband.
  • In the movie Twister, Beltzer is heard singing the title tune of "Oklahoma!" when he is introduced toward the beginning of the movie.
  • On an episode of Friends, when Chandler accidentally accepts a job in Oklahoma, his wife Monica says that she does not want to move to Oklahoma or see the musical Oklahoma!. Chandler responds by listing the songs from the musical, which makes Monica ask if he is telling her he got a job in Oklahoma or if he's telling her he's gay.
  • In an episode of the children's cartoon Fairly Oddparents, Timmy is blown onto a stage where there are auditions for a musical called "North Dakota". The very short audition piece is similar to the song Oklahoma! from the musical.
  • Uniform, Jerry Seinfeld's first Superman webisode commercial for American Express in 1998, featured a musical theatrical spoof, "Oh, Yes! Wyoming!"
  • In the December 31, 2008 episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, comedian Kent Jones sang "Minnesota" to the tune of "Oklahoma!".
  • In the NBC series The Office, Dwight Schrute is quoted saying "Yes I have acted before. I was in a production of "Oklahoma!" in the 7th grade. I played the part of Mutey the Mailman. They had too many kids so they made up roles like that. I was good."
  • On an episode of Will & Grace, Jack is hiding from the gay mafia and Will finds him in a bar, Jack says: "Toby's meeting me here. He borrowed his mother's Caprice and he's gonna smuggle me to Oklahoma." Will answers: "You're going to Oklahoma?" and Jack says: "Yes. The matinee."
  • In the movie Dave, the title character is riding his bicycle home singing the title song from Oklahoma!
  • In a commercial for Microsoft's search engine, Bing, a pregnant woman begins to sing the chorus of "Oklahoma!" but quickly makes a mistake. Shortly after trying to recover, she is cut off by the commercial's slogan.

Notes

  1. ^ TIME magazine reported in its May 26, 2008 issue, p. 51, that Oklahoma! tied (with Bye Bye Birdie) as the eighth most frequently produced musical by U.S. high schools in 2007.
  2. ^ The Cambridge Companion to the Musical, William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird eds., 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 the Pulitzer.org website
  5. ^ Kantor and Malson, pp. 196-202
  6. ^ Information from Capa.com
  7. ^ Who's Who in the Theatre, 11th edition, 1952. See also The Times review, May 1, 1947.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Information about 1980 British production, including a full cast list
  10. ^ Interview with Hensley regarding the 1998 London production
  11. ^ "'Oklahoma!' UK tourukproductions.co.uk, retrieved March 12, 2010

References

  • Kantor, Michael and Maslon, Laurence. Broadway: The American Musical. New York:Bullfinch Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8212-2905-2

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Oklahoma! (1943) was the first musical play written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II.

  • "Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I got a beautiful feeling everything's going my way" - Curly
  • "I cain't say no!" - Ado Annie

"Shoot things!" Judd Fry

  • "I don't say I'm no better than anybody else, but I'll be darned if I aint just as good"-Aunt Eller

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