A New York Theatre Guide to... Oklahoma!
Here's all you need to know about the 75th Anniversary production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic...
One of the most iconic musicals of all time, now re-envisioned for the 21st century, this Bard SummerScape production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, under the daring direction of Tony Award nominee Daniel Fish, played a critically acclaimed, sold-out run at the St. Anne's Warehouse in Brooklyn in the fall of 2018. A swift transfer was announced as the Circle in the Square Theatre became free, providing the perfect setting for the immersive nature of the production. Previews would begin on March 19, 2019, ahead of an official opening on April 7 and the limited engagement (originally scheduled to close on September 1) has already been extended through January 19, 2020, and has also managed to lasso a grand total of 8 Tony Award nominations! Yee-haw!
What's it all about?
For those who have never had the pleasure, Oklahoma! is a 1943 Broadway musical which marked the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, who would go on to become perhaps the greatest song-writing duo in musical theatre history. Based on the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynne Riggs and set in 1906, the story revolves around a love triangle of sorts, as dashing cowboy Curly McLain and troubled farmhand Jud Fry vie for the affections of an independent, young lady by the name of Laurey Williams... with disastrous consequences. A subplot of the musical also follows Will Parker, a simple but honest man, who tries to tame his would-be wife Ado Annie's flirtatious, free-loving ways. But will these two pairs of Indian Territory lovers find their happy endings and ride off into the sunset?
Who's starring in it?
The Broadway cast of Oklahoma! is a mix of Broadway veterans and rising stars, who have achieved 'Broadway favorite' status in the hearts of ardent theatre aficionados. Rebecca Naomi Jones takes on the role of Laurey Williams, whilst Damon Daunno, Ali Stroker, and Mary Testa are all currently nominated for Tony Awards for their respective performances as Curly McLain, Ado Annie and Aunt Eller. There's also strong support from Patrick Vaill as the damaged Jud Fry and James Davis as the lovable Will Parker.
What's special about this production?
This production truly is Oklahoma! like you've never seen it before, as director Daniel Fish has gone to great lengths to accentuate the darker elements hidden within the material. His directorial choices are often experimental with actors delivering lines in total darkness or with night-vision-style close-ups of their faces projected onto the backdrop and, as a result, there is a much more menacing, sinister feel to the musical, absent from productions of yesteryear. The venue itself is a treat, having been transformed into a plywood barn with rifles hanging on the walls, and the front row of the audience is now situated on the actual stage, interactively part of the action. The actors wear modern, Southern dress (even though the book has not been updated) and boast a racial diversity unseen in traditional productions of Oklahoma!, giving this revival a timeless element to it... Oh, and did we mention, there's free chilli and cornbread for audience members distributed on stage during intermission? Yum! (Tip: Don't dawdle, as the line can quickly become quite long! Grab it while it's hot!)
Who would we recommend it to?
If you like your theatre experimental and immersive or you're always thirsting for new adaptations and re-imaginings of old classics that boldly push the envelope of theatricality, then this version of Oklahoma! may well be your cup of tea. Purists might want to think twice, but if you attend theatre with an open mind, then you'll be fine at Oklahoma!... OK!
Oklahoma! Tickets are available now.
(Photos by Little Fang Photo)
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