Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! opened on Broadway at the St James Theatre, March 31, 1943. As we mark the 75th Anniversary of one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, Oklahoma! transformed the future of theater. The first collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, the musical marked the birth of a new genre, the musical play, which for the first time seamlessly integrated story, song and dance.
Oklahoma! ran for a total of 2, 212 performances (before Oklahoma!, no Broadway show had run longer than 500 performances) and closed on Broadway on May 29, 1948. There have been four Broadway revivals since the original production in 1951, 1953, 1979 and 2002. The first National tour began in October, 1943 at the Shubert Theater in New Haven (where the show had premiered) and ran for nearly 11 years, ending the run at the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia in May, 1954. Rodgers and Hammerstein won a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! in 1944.
The original Broadway cast album of Oklahoma! was the first comprehensive original Broadway cast recording of a musical and sold over a million copies, setting a precedent for the production of original cast recordings of Broadway musicals. There have also been more than 20 studio cast recordings of the musical, featuring such stars as Nelson Eddy, John Raitt and Florence Henderson in the leading roles.
1955 musical film starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones(in her film debut), Rod Steiger, Charlotte Greenwood, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, James Whitmore and Eddie Albert. The production was the only musical directed by Fred Zinnemann. Oklahoma! was the first feature film photographed in the Todd-AO 70 mm widescreen process (and was simultaneously filmed in CinemaScope 35mm).
On July 15, 1998. The production team included Trevor Nunn (director), Susan Stroman (choreographer) and William David Brohn (orchestrator). The international cast included Hugh Jackman as Curly, Maureen Lipman as Aunt Eller, Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey, Shuler Hensley as Jud Fry, Vicki Simon as Ado Annie, Peter Polycarpouas Ali Hakim and Jimmy Johnston as Will Parker.
Rodgers & Hammerstein went on to have the most successful partnership in musical theater history. Following Oklahoma! was Carousel, State Fair, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song and The Sound of Music, collectively earning the team 42 Tony Awards®, 15 Academy Awards®, 2 Pulitzer Prizes, 2 Grammy Awards®, and 2 Emmy Awards®.
Launching a yearlong Anniversary celebration, Broadway will be celebrating the Anniversary this weekend. Next week, the current Rodgers & Hammerstein tours of The King and I, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and The Sound of Music (which will be performing in the state of Oklahoma) will all be celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Oklahoma!