Reinventing the wheel is no easy task, but the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II did precisely that. Taking the musical even further from its operetta and revue-style roots, OKLAHOMA! was a serious adult musical that fully integrated story, song and dance in a compelling and exhilarating new manner. Based upon the 1931 drama GREEN GROW THE LILACS by Lynn Riggs, the team took the model introduced by SHOW BOAT several steps further in devising the paradigm for virtually every musical to come after it. A 1944 Pulitzer Prize further cemented its place as a cultural touchstone.
Packed to the brim with classic Rodgers & Hammerstein standards such as the title song, "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'", "Surrey With The Fringe On Top", "I Cain't Say No", "People Will Say We're In Love" and many more, the original 1943 production was helmed by Rouben Mamoulian and choreographed by Agnes De Mille, becoming an immediate hit with critics and audiences, running more than 2000 performances. A return engagement arrived in 1951, followed by a City Center presentation in 1953. Two major revivals have hit the Great White Way in the intervening half-century, in 1979 and 2002. And, now, an innovative new iteration is confirmed to begin its run at Circle-In-The-Square on Broadway next year.
Originating at Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse, Daniel Fish's 75th anniversary production of OKLAHOMA! is an immersive experience set at a community hall, highlighted by a seven-piece onstage band and complete with cornbread and chili served to the audience during intermission. Previews are scheduled to begin on March 19 prior to an April 7 opening night. Complete casting is expected be announced soon.
75 years on, the immense influence of OKLAHOMA! on theatre history is as clear to see as a Kansas morning... or an Oklahoma sunrise.