This week marked the 75th Anniversary of the Broadway Debut that changed the face of American Musical Theatre…. We are talking about Rodgers & Hammerstein’s legendary musical Oklahoma! For those who have or planning on coming on one of tours, we share some interesting stories about how the show made it’s rocky but triumphant road to Broadway.
For a little throwback, here is Patrick Wilson as “Curly”, Josefina Gabrielle as “Laurey”, Andrea Martin as “Aunt Eller”, and the cast of the most recent 2002 Broadway revival as they take us to the Box Social for a toe tapping performance of the musical’s Act 2 opener THE FARMER & THE COWMAN in that year’s Tony Awards.
OKLAHOMA (based on the play GREEN GROW THE LILACS and originally entitled AWAY WE GO) first premiered in 1943 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre as a surprising massive box office smash running for 2,212 performances. Ticket sales were so impossible to get when it first came out. The Tony Awards would later be developed a few years later. In addition, our troops who served our country during both World Wars would get free tickets. From there, it went on to become a worldwide hit.
OKLAHOMA was later revived 4 times starting in 1951 at the Broadway Theatre running for 100 performances, 1953 for brief stint at City Center (in honor of the 10th Anniversary) for 40 performances, 1979 at the Palace Theatre for 293 performances (featuring Christine Andreas and Christine Ebersole, who received the only 2 Tony nominations that year but lost both in their categories as Best Leading and Featured Actress in a Musical).
Finally in 2002, the critically acclaimed 1998 West End production from the National Theatre in London (as seen in this video) played Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre receiving 7 Tony nomination and took home only 1 for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (for Shuler Hensley) playing 388 performances. For that recent revival, it was well known for having the real actors who play the roles of “Curly”, “Laurey”, and “Jud” to dance in the musical’s iconic Dream Ballet scene rather than having a double.
OKLAHOMA also became a smash hit on the screen with 2 film versions. The original 1955 film (starring Gordon MacRae, Gloria Grahame, and the debut of Shirley Jones) became one of the greatest movie musicals of all time earning rave reviews and receiving 2 wins at The Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Sound.
It was then most recently captured on film in 1999. The company of the 1998 West End revival (which later went to Broadway in 2002) spent a few days at a London soundstage filming the entire production in it’s entirety with the audience pre-recorded at one a later performance in the National Theatre. It was originally made for video in the UK before finally going on the air in America in 2003 on Great Performances l PBS. The filmed London company featured Hugh Jackman (long before his career took off as “Wolverine” in the X-Men Movies) as “Curly” along with Josefina Gabrielle and Shuler Hensley (before taking the revival to Broadway).
Happy 75th Anniversary OKLAHOMA!!! OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL IT IS.
Who has seen or been in a production of OKLAHOMA?!
2002 Tony awards. With Andrea Martin and Patrick Wilson
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