Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Cultural Impact of Oklahoma!
After the success of Oklahoma!, several national touring companies took the musical on the road performing in 250 cities over ten years. During World War II, the musical was performed overseas for the troops. The original cast of the Broadway show came together and recorded the songs for an album. This would be the first cast album to feature an original Broadway cast.
Oklahoma! revolutionized the theater business. The play was the first musical to blend comedy, drama, dance, and song. The songs are used to move the plot, not just a break from the story. Oklahoma! also created a mu- sical formula, comprised of a baritone lead, a soprano lead, a supporting tenor lead, and a supporting alto lead. Today, Oklahoma! is still a popular production all over the world.
A movie version of the musical was released in 1955 with Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones starring as Curly and Laurey. Actress Barbara Lawrence from Carnegie, Oklahoma, played Gertie Cummings. Rodgers and Hammerstein were involved with the making of the film and Agnes de Mille, the original choreographer, also worked on the movie. Ironically, the movie was filmed in Arizona because the state of Oklahoma looked too modern. The movie received four Academy Award nominations and won two for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound, Recording.
Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae as Laurey and Curly (courtesy of the Denver Public Library). 4