Last year it was announced that the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival would be putting an interesting spin on their upcoming production of "Oklahoma" by making the couplings of Laurey/Curly and Will/Ado Annie, same sex rather than the traditional heterosexual pairing.
The announcement was met with praise but also with some skepticism. Would a recasting like this make sense? Would it work within the context of the piece?
Well, at least according to local critics who have seen the show since its opening on April 22nd, it's worked perfectly.
Bill Choy of the Siskiyou Daily News stated,
"I am very happy to report that the changes feel natural and organic and work wonderfully well. They add a beautiful and poignant layer to “Oklahoma!” while still retaining the magic and charm that has made this musical so beloved over the years. When Tatiana Wechsler as Curly first comes on stage and starts to belt out “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,” her stunning singing voice and the way she fully inhabits this iconic character and makes it her own, I knew right away this production was going to be much more than just OK."
Maureen Falnnegan Battistella of the Mail Tribune added,
"There is no confusion in OSF’s production of “Oklahoma!” The celebration of difference is clear. And that great big sun center stage means home and a commitment to a beloved landscape that is reinventing itself today as surely as Oklahoma was in 1906."
So with the rave reviews of director Bill Rauch's production, could this open the doors for more same-sex, transgender, nonbinary revivals, especially on Broadway stages?
I'd like to say yes. But I also know how much people are protective over changing anything with classic theatre properties. To many, the thought of a same-sex Private Lives or Phantom of the Opera would be amazing to see, while others might feel differently. And the opposition wouldn't necessarily be from a place of hate, but just not liking change to their favorite productions. Remember, there was a lot of controversy over choreography being changed for the recent revival of Cats.
While many theatre fans might be opposed to such casting changes to their favorite shows, with people becoming more vocal and open with their gender identity, it will certainly impact the way Broadway casts over the next decade.
Personally, as someone who advocates for casting equality and representation on our stages, I'm all for it. I do think it has to work on an artistic level. But with the more LGBTQ2+ people in our audiences, it's important that they see themselves on stage and it could lead to some major breakthrough work.
So if you're in the Ashland, OR area, I recommend taking in OSF's "Oklahoma". Who knows, maybe you'll walk out inspired to bring the same representation back to your own local stages.
Oklahoma! runs through Oct. 27, 2018, in the Angus Bowmer Theatre. Due to high demand, two bonus performances have been added: Monday, Aug. 27, and Monday, Oct. 1. Tickets for all performances are available at the OSF Box Office, via phone at 800-219-8161, or online at osfashland.org. Engagement programming related to Oklahoma! and other 2018 productions will be offered when the Summer Festival Noons series returns June 19–Sept. 2, 2018.
A sign-interpreted performance is scheduled for May 25 at 8 p.m. Contact the Box Office at 800-219-8161 or email email@example.com to purchase tickets in the Deaf Community section; these tickets not available online. Information on additional accessibility accommodations is at osfashland.org/Accessibility/.