Oct. 10--"Oklahoma!" made its Broadway bow 70 years ago this year and started a musical theater genre that has endured.
"It is the single most influential work in the American musical theater," according to playwright and theater writer Thomas Hischak in "The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film and Television."
The show "set a standard for the [musical theater] form," William Zinsser said in the book "Easy To Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs," "opening their door for all mature and intelligent musicals that were to follow."
"'Oklahoma!'," theater historian Ethan Mordden wrote in "Broadway Babies," "was the first American musical with an ethnic sound, words and music entirely in the folk idiom."
The Colonnade Players are bringing the musical to the Colonnade stage for a two-weekend run beginning tonight, Oct. 10.
Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs, the production marked the first collaboration by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II.
The play tells the story of cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey and their road to love against the backdrop of the territory's run-up to becoming the 46th U.S. state just after the turn of the 20th century.
Unfolding along the way are the rivalry between the farmers and the cowboys, the battle for Laurey's hand between Curly and farmhand Jud, and the faux dispute for Ado Annie's hand between cowboy Will Parker and peddler Ali Hakim.
The musical contains such songs as "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "People Will Say We're in Love" and the title song.
The Broadway play, which opened on March 31, 1943, and ran for a then-unprecedented 2,212 performances, earned pre-Tony Award theater honors, a special Pulitzer Prize for Rodgers and Hammerstein and an Academy Award for the 1955 film adaptation.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
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