Oklahoma! (originally named “Away We Go”)which opened on 1 April 1943 at the St James Theatre, New York City is perhaps one of the most important pieces of musical theatre of the entire 20th Century. It ran for an unprecedented 2243 performances, later enjoying many award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions, and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation.
The iconic Rodgers and Hammerstein score inspired a new generation of Broadway musicals and pushed the boundaries of the genre such as no other work of its time. This show set the standards and established the rules of musical theatre still being followed today..
Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lyn Riggs it completely rewrote the rule-book.
It replaced pure spectacle with specifics. In essence it kissed goodbye to Vaudeville and the old-style “musical comedy” and created a musical play. Out went meaningless, totally interchangeable musical numbers and in came properly dramatic and coherent plots which were crucially determined by believable three-dimensional characters. And it was these character’s thoughts, fears. wishes, emotions and ideas that drove the songs they sang.
Rodgers welded musical styles, melodies, rhythms and tune to Hammerstein’s individually tailored, realistic, yet poetic lyrics that were themselves embedded in his script – and Robert Russell Bennett brought to the table his expertise in orchestrating the score which superbly conveys just the right moods and texture to the style of the work.