The Musical OKLAHOMA!

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Symphonic Band is playing selections from the musical, Oklahoma! (Do note that the exclamation point is part of the title)

Oklahoma! opened on March 31, 1943. It actually wasn't expected to do very well; there were many financial issues, no real stars, the choreographer, Agnes de Mille, was not yet very well known outside of the small world of serious dance, the director, Rouben Mamoulian, was not yet well known and it was the first time that the composer, Richard Rodgers, was writing songs with someone other than his partner, Lorenz Hart. And, Oscar Hammerstein II, had six Broadway flops in a row!!! (Amazing when you stop to think that the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein went on to become almost synonymous with Broadway musical success!!). Well, not only did it do OK (do you get the pun here??? OK is the abbreviation for Oklahoma.), the musical won a special Pulitzer Prize, the investors (who expected to lose money) earned thirty-three times what they invested, and by the time it closed, Oklahoma! had run more than three times longer than any other musical ever had! In short, it was the most important musical in Broadway history!

The team of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II wrote musicals together for seventeen years. Some of the best love and most famous musicals of all time were written by Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of Music, The King & I, Carousal and South Pacific are all by this amazing team of writers. While working together, Oscar Hammerstein wrote the words and Richard Rodgers wrote the music. 2002 is the 100 anniversary of Richard Rodgers' birth, so there are many performances of his music planned for this year. Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops just put out a CD of his music.

So what is the story?? Simply, it is a love story. It takes place in Oklahoma Territory just after 1900 (Oklahoma wasn't yet a state, just a territory, but its people were looking forward to statehood). It is about a pair of cowboys who are both in love with the same woman. Of course, one is the Good Guy and one is the Bad Guy... Naturally, Jud (the Bad Guy) tries to kill Curly (the Good Guy), but good eventually wins out.

It's odd, a lot of musicals & operas have really simple themes (even stupid plots!!!); it is the music and dancing that makes the show! Watch a video of the show and earn three enrichment points (more if you write a review, too!). The show originally was called, Away We Go!, and the song, "Oklahoma!" was added after opening night. The title of the show soon changed to Oklahoma! The songs from this show became some of the most popular and most often sung songs of the times.

--Did you notice that the titles of musical are usually in italics? Oklahoma!
On the other hand, song titles from the show are usually put in quotation marks: "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning".

(Info for some of this article came from American Heritage, Feb/March, 1993 issue, pp58-71.)

Richard Rodgers describes some of the happenings as he & Oscar Hammerstein II wrote Oklahoma!

The official Rodgers & Hammerstein site is http://www.rnh.com/index1.html. This site also includes bios and information about other composers, lyricists and writers involved in theatre.

The Richard Rodgers Centennial site is at http://www.rnh.com/rrcent/

If you find any other sites that people might be interested in, be sure to let me know and earn some enrichment points (Wayland MS students)! (No, you may not use ones that are direct links from the above sites!)

Click here for an enrichment point possibility!

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