A Chain of Musicals: OKLAHOMA!


To purchase the 1955 Film Soundtrack of OKLAHOMA!, click on the image above.

In January, Musical Cyberspace is going to work through a chain of musicals. This is how it works: each day I will discuss, in brief, a musical linked to the previous day’s musical by some kind of common ground. It follows then, that if you – dear reader – liked the previous day’s show, then you might enjoy the current day’s show. Comments, as alway, are welcome!

If you like Annie Get Your Gun, then you might like Oklahoma!.

Annie Get Your Gun and Oklahoma! were both show produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Oklahoma! made standard a new set of norms for the Broadway musical and Annie Get Your Gun was created with that vision in mind, although it isn’t nearly as seamlessly integrated. The two also share a “Wild West”, pioneer country setting and, thus, there are similar flavours in parts of the two scores.

Oklahoma! tells the story of Curly, a cowboy, and Laurey, a farmgirl, who are in love and should be going to the box social together, getting married and living life happily ever after. But some things stand in their way: the menacing farmhand, Jud, and the split between the cattle herding and farming communities on the land that will, by the end of the show, become the state Oklahoma. A subplot tells the tale of playful Ado Annie and her faithful beau, Will Parker, whose coupling is delayed by Ado Annie’s shenanigans with a traveling merchant. Highlights include “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”, “The Surrey with a Fringe on the Top”, “Lonely Room”, “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma”.

Oklahoma!, with its book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Richard Rodgers, is a classic musical and is worthy of its place in musical theatre history and the esteem in which it is held. The storyline so deceptively simple that the show is easy to take for granted. It’s easy to forget – or perhaps not even see at all – that this show is an American allegory with a resonance that underscores every moment of its tight construction. The depth of later Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals is easier to see, with cornerstones like “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, “Something Wonderful” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” adding weight the the respective scores from which they are taken, but when the equivalent number in Oklahoma! is “The Farmer and the Cowman”, it’s easier to miss and dismiss. But that’s part of the genius of Oklahoma!: the thoughts are expressed through the characters in a way that perfectly suits them – and that’s the way it should be.

So, now it’s time to share your thoughts on Oklahoma!. And what shows would you suggest to fans of this show? See which one we’ll feature here tomorrow…

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