Oklahoma! (1943) was the first musical play written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, working together. Some argue that it marked a revolution in musical drama: While it was hardly the first time a play with music told a story of emotional depth and psychological complexity, Oklahoma! implemented a number of new storytelling techniques, including focusing on emotional empathy; dealing with characters and situations far removed from the audience by time and geography; dealing with American historical and social materials; and its use of dance to convey plot and character rather than mere diversion for the audience.
Oklahoma!, which is based on Lynn Riggs's 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs, is set in Oklahoma Territory in 1906, and tells the story of cowboy Curly McLane and his romance with farmer girl Laurey Williams. Their love is challenged by Laurey's threatening farmhand, Jud Fry, and much of the play follows the contest between Curly and Jud for Laurey's affections. A comic subplot follows Laurey's friend, Ado Annie Carnes, and her on-again-off-again relationship with cowboy Will Parker.
The original production of Oklahoma! opened on March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre in New York, was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and starred Betty Garde, Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts, Celeste Holm, Joan McCracken, and Howard Da Silva. The production was choreographed by Agnes de Mille, who provided one of the show's most notable and enduring features: a 15-minute first-act ballet finale (often referred to as a dream ballet) arising from Laurey's inability to make up her mind between Jud and Curly. The original production ran for a then unprecedented 2212 performances, and closed on May 29, 1948.
The play was adapted into an Academy Award-winning musical film in 1955, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones (in her film debut), Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, and Eddie Albert. This film was shot twice, in the new 70mm widescreen process of Todd-AO and again in the more established Cinemascope process for theatres without 70mm film equipment.
NB: For unexplained reasons the UK DVD release is a pan and scan version from a noticeably grainy Cinemascope print, even though the companion DVD of South Pacific is taken from a pristine Todd-AO master and presented in widescreen.
Marc Platt danced the role of the original "Dream Curly" for the 1943 stage production of "Oklahoma!", and he also appeared in the 1955 movie version of "Oklahoma!' in the role of a cowboy.
- "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'"
- "The Surrey With the Fringe On Top"
- "Kansas City"
- "I Can't Say No"
- "Many a New Day"
- "It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!" (omitted from the 1955 film)
- "People Will Say We're In Love"
- "Pore Jud is Daid"
- "Lonely Room" (omitted from the 1955 film)
- "Out of My Dreams"
- "Laurey Makes Up Her Mind" (Dream Ballet)
- "The Farmer and the Cowman"
- "Let People Say We're In Love"
- "All Er Nuthin'"
- "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin' (Reprise)"
- A short description of Oklahoma!
- Internet Broadway Database page for the original 1943 production
- IMDB description of 1955 film adaptation