The first production of Oklahoma! Was at the St. James Theater on March 31 st, 1943 in New York City. Oklahoma! Ran for 2,212 performances and closed on May 29 th, 1948.
The setting of Oklahoma is a Native American territory that has been renamed the state of Oklahoma. The setting is the turn of the 20 th century. Aunt Eller is churning butter outside of her farm as we hear “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from offstage. The singer is Curly, inviting Aunt Eller’s niece Laurey to a box social that evening. Plot
When Laurey acts indifferent to Curly’s invitation he pushes her to come, singing about the “surrey” (carriage) he will take her to at the party. When Curly reveals that he has no surrey to bring her in Laurey becomes angry and storms off. Will Parker arrives to tell his tale about winning fifty dollars in a steer-roping contest at a fair in Kansas City.
Will Parker explains that he needs the fifty dollars desperately since he wants to marry Ado Annie, and her father, Judge Andrew Carneshad told him he could not marry her until he acquired said funds. Even though Laurey is angry with Curly she is in love with him, and decides to make him jealous by going to the box social with a despicable date who she has hired.
Laurey acts indifferent to Curly bringing a date of his own. Ado Annie then reveals that she is with Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler. She explains that she is the kind of girl that can’t refuse a many anything. Due to his ability to woo Annie her father insists that she marry the Peddler, much to his dismay.
Curly and Laurey meet again and go to the box social together, but decide to be discreet about their love. Curly visits Jud at the smokehouse to let him know that even though it appears people have a poor image of him, that they would mourn him if he died.
A dream dance sequence then occurs where Laurey imagines what it would be like to marry Curly. Laurey also dreams of Jud beating up Curly, breaking up the marriage and taking her away from him. When Laurey awakes Jud is there, insisting she go with him to the dance. Curly also arrives, and in fear of her dream becoming a reality she agrees to go with Jud to the dance.
The second act opens with the box social, a fun and wild party. Farmers and Cowmen talk of their mutual rivalry with good humor. The girls of the town are then auctioned off of food boxes. There is a bidding war between Jud and Curly. Curly sells everything he knows to get the box for $42.31
In the meantime, Ali Hakim gives Will money for all the presents he bought for Ado Annie. Since Hakim has no interest in marrying Annie, he wishes to help Will attain her. 3 weeks later Curly and Laurey are married. Jud becomes intoxicated at the wedding and threatens Curly with a knife. During the fight Jud falls on his knife and dies.
Curly is acquitted of murder by Judge Carnes and is set free to go on his honeymoon.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WUHlqmD7j M https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WUHlqmD7j M 2002 Broadway Revival
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg5cwSBnyQ U https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg5cwSBnyQ U Film Adaptation (1955)
Director: Robert Mamoulin Choreographer: Agnes de Mille Alfred Drake as Curly Joan Roberts as Laurey Celeste Holm as Ado Annie Howard Da Silva as Jude Fry Betty Garde as Aunt Eller Lee Dixon as Will Parker Joseph Bulloff as Ali Hakim Jane Lawrence as Gertie Barry Kelley as Ike Original Broadway Production Cast
Curly McClain: A cowboy in love with Laurey Laurey Williams: Aunt Eller’s niece, a nice independent young woman Jud Fry: A hired hand on Aunt Eller’s ranch, a mysterious and dangerous loner Aunt Eller: Laurey’s aunt, a respected community member Ado Annie Carnes: A flirtatious, gullible young woman Will Parker: A simple young man in love with Ado Annie Andrew Carnes: Ado Annie’s father, eager to have her married Alim Hakim: A Persian Peddler, enamored of Annie Gertie Cummings: A local farm girl, fond of Curly, marries Hakim Character Descriptions
The original production of Oklahoma! Was a success both with critics and audience members alike. Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune said, “Songs, dances and a story have been triumphantly blended. The Richard Rogers score is one of his best, and that is saying plenty. Oscar Hammerstein II has written a dramatically imaginative libretto and a string of catchy lyrics; Agnes De Mille has worked small miracles in devising original dances to fit the story and the tunes.” Reception
Why is Oklahoma! Considered an important landmark in the development of the American Musical Theater and how did the success of the production influence the 40’s decade and the beginning of the golden age?
Oklahoma revolutionized Broadway by straying away from large, showy numbers with minimal plot. Oklahoma also offered a COMPLETE story in which music was used as a means to move the story along.
People who played the characters were not Broadway stars. Rodgers and Hammerstein chose actors that could act rather than performers who had ONLY amazing voices.
The choreography was revolutionary because of Agnes de Mille’s incorporation of “folk ballet” There was serious dancing that helped lead the story. The choreography included a 15 minute first act ballet finale (often referred to as the dream balle) depicting Laurey’s struggle to evaluate her suitors, Judy and Curly.
Because of the death of the character Jude in Oklahoma, the show changed what topics in general could be discussed in a musical. Oklahoma is coined a “Folk Opera”, and in fact introduced the concept of Folk Opera to the American Musical Genre
The film adaptation of the show was a roundhouse success. Due to Oklahoma ’s success other shows were created that had more mature content starring gifted theater artists: Brigadoon, Kiss Me Kate, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof
Rodgers and Hammerstein formulated and demonstrated principles about their craft that elevated the popular musical stage from entertainment to art.