Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’: Honoring OKLAHOMA!

Welcome to April 2018’s Musical Theatre Monday! At this time 75 years ago, New York audiences were first being introduced to the glorious sounds of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s legendary Oklahoma! (1943), which opened on March 31, 1943. This musical drama needs no introduction — it’s the one often credited with having changed theatergoers’ expectations regarding the narrative integration of song, dance, and story, and its importance has never been forgotten. In fact, its very existence has been used here as an aesthetic marker; there’s everything that came before Oklahoma! and everything that came after it.

In this entry, I’m offering subscribed readers their own digital copy of The University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ 2011 production (which can currently be seen elsewhere on YouTube). This mounting is notable for not only utilizing Robert Russell Bennett’s original orchestrations/arrangements, but also for recreating Agnes de Mille’s famed choreography, along with the 1943 costumes and scenic design, which haven’t been put to use in over 50 years… You can see a clip of this wonderful, ambitious undertaking below. If you’d like to download the full video, please subscribe (if you haven’t already) and comment here.

For curious commenting subscribers, I’m also offering an audio of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2013 production, which used the original orchestrations and choreography, as well (but, unlike UNCSA, didn’t seek to be a replication of the original visually). Here’s an excerpt.

 

 

Come back next month for another Musical Theatre entry! And stay tuned tomorrow for our rerun series!

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14 thoughts on “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’: Honoring OKLAHOMA!

  1. Why there aren’t more precise reproductions like this (PARTICULARLY FOR THEIR NEXT SHOW WHICH IS A SHAMBLES ON BROADWAY RIGHT NOW) saddens me.

    • Hi, bobster427! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Well, I think there are very few works of musical theatre that we collectively revere like OKLAHOMA!; it’s a show that no one thinks needs to be made better or tweaked in order to emotionally resonate with a modern audience.

      Also, it has enough historical cachet that attempting to recreate the original production doesn’t just seem like the dream of a few obsessed individuals, but rather, like a work done FOR the theatre community at large — creating a record of a classic that will last through generations and could, theoretically, be recreated again and again.

      As a historian, I’d like to see similar efforts being made on other shows, but I know better than to hold my breath — because the collective interest in doing so dwindles by the year, and because I’d imagine few productions of the era were as initially well-documented as OKLAHOMA!

  2. Hi, Jackson! What a great idea for a post. I never get tired of hearing this ever-fresh score. I’d like to download the video. Many thanks!

  3. Hi Jackson. I’d love to have the download of the full University of North Carolina production. I’m not surprised that the original choreography and visual elements haven’t been utilized for a long time (the last time I saw Oklahoma! onstage was the 1979 Broadway production which used both the original orchestrations and choreography), but I guess it’s news to me that the Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations have been adapted over the years. I haven’t seen it, but I see the Hugh Jackman version has “additional orchestrations”, and it makes me wonder if other cuts and alterations have crept in over the years and become standardized (like in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta). At any rate, it’s a great post to honor Oklahoma!’s 75th!

  4. Good show. Would love to see and hear both shows. I ve seen 3 different productions of this musical and have enjoyed them all. Bob K Thanks.

  5. Would definitely like a copy of the UNC production. It may be the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the original production. The ballet sequence was pretty marvelous.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing the original choreography. I’ve seen Oklahoma! many times but never quite like that. Appreciate your diligence in finding these gems! Kim

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