NEXT month marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark show...

salmagundi

February 15, 1993

NEXT month marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark show "Oklahoma!" -- the 1943 production by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II that transformed musical theater. It ran on Broadway for over five years and a touring company performed the show around the country for nine years. Music professor Walter Frisch wrote in the winter issue of "Columbia" magazine about the inception of the show:

"From the beginning, Rodgers and Hammerstein worked with each other in a way different than either had done with previous collaborators. Before setting a note or a word to paper, they would meet for many sessions to plan the overall design of the show and discuss carefully the placement of musical numbers and dances. After these larger issues were settled, Hammerstein would create the book and write the lyrics, which Rodgers would then set to music. Rodgers had no trouble adapting to the new regimen. Indeed, the whole experience of creating 'Oklahoma!' was, in his own words, a 'rebirth.' The show also represented a rebirth for the truly integrated musical -- 'musical play,' as 'Oklahoma!' was called by its creators -- in which plot, characters, music, dance, and staging were all of a piece, all contributing to a larger dramatic effect.

"Hammerstein, who had been groping for a lyrical voice for a number of years, found it in the folksy, home spun language of the turn-of-the-century American settlers. Rodgers managed to develop a wholly analogous or complementary muscial idiom, one unlike any he had used before."

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