On this Day:
On March 31, 1943, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration, Oklahoma, opened on Broadway.
Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Texas on the south and west, Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. Partially in the western extreme of the Upland South, it is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the 50 United States. Its residents are known as Oklahomans (or colloquially “Okies”), and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.
The state’s name is derived from the Choctaw words okla, ‘people’ and humma, which translates as ‘red’. Oklahoma is also known informally by its nickname, “The Sooner State”, in reference to the settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907.
With ancient mountain ranges, prairie, mesas, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains, Cross Timbers, and the U.S. Interior Highlands, all regions prone to severe weather. Oklahoma is at a confluence of three major American cultural regions. Historically it served as a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans removed from east of the Mississippi River, a route for cattle drives from Texas and related regions, and a destination for Southern migrant settlers. There are currently twenty-five Native American languages still spoken in Oklahoma.
A major producer of natural gas, oil, and agricultural products, Oklahoma relies on an economic base of aviation, energy, telecommunications, and biotechnology. Oklahoma City and Tulsa serve as Oklahoma’s primary economic anchors, with nearly two-thirds of Oklahomans living within their metropolitan statistical areas (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A friend bought two tickets to the Alabama-Oklahoma Orange Bowl game. Limo and driver to the game, seats on the 50 yard line, unlimited food and drink and VIP passes to the post-game party.
He paid $2,500 each for the tickets but when he purchased them, he didn’t realize that the game is on the same day as his wedding. If you are interested, he is looking for someone to take his place.
It’s at Holy Cross Church, on Lake Ave in Tulsa, at 3:00 pm. The bride’s name is Nicole, she’s 5’4″, about 115 lbs, and a good cook too…..She’ll be the one in the white dress…
Second, a Song:
Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in farm country outside the town of Claremore, Indian Territory, in 1906, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the sinister and frightening farmhand Jud Fry. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.
The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box office hit and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Oscar-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions. Rodgers and Hammerstein won a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! in 1944.
This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier Show Boat, epitomized the development of the “book musical”, a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story, with serious dramatic goals, that is able to evoke genuine emotions other than amusement. In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story. A fifteen-minute “dream ballet” reflects Laurey’s struggle with her feelings about two men, Curly and Jud.
“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” is the opening song from the musical Oklahoma!, which premiered on Broadway in 1943. It was written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The leading male character in Oklahoma!, Curly McLain, sings the song at the beginning of the first scene of the musical. The refrain runs: “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’! / Oh, what a beautiful day! / I’ve got a beautiful feelin’ / Ev’rythin’s goin’ my way.” Curly’s “brimming optimism is perfectly captured by Rodgers’ ebullient music and Hammerstein’s buoyant pastoral lyrics.”
This was the first song of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical collaboration to be heard by theatre audiences. It has become one of their most famous numbers and “quickly became one of the most popular American songs to emerge from the wartime era, gaining currency away from Broadway first on the radio and recordings, and then later on numerous television variety shows.” Brooks Atkinson, reviewing the original production in The New York Times, wrote that the number changed the history of musical theatre: “After a verse like that, sung to a buoyant melody, the banalities of the old musical stage became intolerable.”
Oklahoma! is a 1999 British film adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1943 musical Oklahoma!, which in turn was based on the 1930 play Green Grow the Lilacs written by Lynn Riggs. The film was directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Susan Stroman. The production featured the entire 1998 West End Revival cast at the Royal National Theatre led by Hugh Jackman as Curly McLain, Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey Williams, and Maureen Lipman as Aunt Eller (per Wikipedia).
Here is Hugh Jackman from the 1999 version of Oklahoma! performing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma on a working cattle ranch, and it was always very romantic to me: The West, the cowboy, the Western way of life.” -Reba McEntire
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky