First of all, how many of y’all have seen Oklahoma!? Do you know where I can see a filmed version of the musical because after seeing this version of Oklahoma! tonight, I am unsettled and endlessly curious. 
A few months ago, I watched The Tony Awards and the cast of Oklahoma! did their performance. Now, I’ve seen bits of Oklahoma! performed on TV before and it always seemed…I don’t know…cheerful? People were square dancing, singing about beautiful mornings and how farmers and ranchers should get along. This one was…different: 

They seemed angry, thus I nicknamed this Angry!Oklahoma. My friends and I went to see it tonight; none of us have seen any other productions of this show. We know some of the songs and I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. And my reaction to said plot summary was: “What?!! What is this? Why is this considered a musical theater classic?”

This production, on at Circle in the Square Theatre, is in a small theater in the semi-round. It was very brightly lit.

The performers were excellent, though I kind of thought they weren’t very loudly microphoned up. You can hear everything in that theater–a cell phone went off one measure into the first song and Damon Daunno, who played Curly McLain, held off on the rest of the song until the phone was silenced. Chairs creaking, candy wrappers being unwrapped, people coughing–you can hear it all.

The performers were really fantastic, especially Ali Stroker who plays Ado Annie and won a Tony Award for this performance. She was wonderful. Rebecca Naomi Jones as Laurey was wonderful, too.

But the actual plot and the characters are…I don’t know, unsettling? Laurey is caught between a guy she likes but is hesitant about (Curly, who starts out really charming in some very nice chaps and jeans, but is kind of a dick?) and a guy who likes her but whom Laurey finds creepy (Jud. By the way, is Jud ALWAYS this creepy?)

(Our answer: Laurey girl, get yourself some friends and ignore the men they are alllll problematic)

There were two scenes where the lights were completely shut off, so we were sitting in the pitch dark while Curly and Jud are talking about suicide and funerals and then the lights came on and there’s a screen in the back and a cast member was holding a GoPro which was on a verryyyy tight close up of Curly and Jud being verrryyy close (Is that the subtext? Do they want to make out?). And then there were some stage guns shot off, which made everyone jump and gasp.

And scene two with the lights shut off, something happened with Laurey and Jud. And then there was a ten minute long ballet to start Act Two (the dancer was fantastic, by the way). And then there was a general dance (fun!) and then things got weird and ended…even weirder. Like, I have not digested this show yet, so I’m not sure what to make of it.
From reading the summary, I noticed this show changed a few things at the end. It was tonal whiplash  and I’m just, like, not sure how to parse out my impressions on this show.

7 thoughts on “Oklahoma!

  1. Oklahoma, O.K.L.A.H.O.M.A, Oklahooomaaaaa! NOOO don't change things! There were a few lyric changes in Love Never Dies to tie in more with the Phantom of the Opera, and dude, I had already seen a filmed stage version, and I was PISSED because I was singing along in my head, and it really threw me off, but it was beautiful, so I can't complain too too much. But it was so unnecessary. They were just showing off. Anyway, we watched the 1950s movie version of Oklahoma in my high school theatre class and the older kids put on a stage performance, but I honestly don't remember much about it at all. I do remember liking it and rushing out to buy the soundtrack afterwards, but the biggest thing I remember is the long ballet performance, which was weird in the movie because it didn't make sense – it's probably much better on stage. I don't remember a love triangle, though I know Jud dies because there's a song about it. The arts department at the University of North Carolina filmed their version, which the description claims is faithful to the original stage production. It's on my watchlist and there's two parts. I haven't watched them yet, but I did like the singing enough to save it. You can find part one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syM0JtapQ4Q and part two here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS4NuHtiiPE – let me know what you think if you watch it. Since you brought it up, I'm going to try and watch it this weekend, because I sing these songs all the time, and I really don't remember what happened.


  2. I hope you read this post before blogger ate it and I had to restore it 🙂 I don't mind the more grounding in reality aspect of it, I guess, and Lordy, that plot is…really something. How was a story like that (with that ending goshhhh) supposed to be uplifting? I'm just a wee bit confused!Thank you for the links–I'll definitely check them out because I do wonder how traditional Oklahoma! is peformed! More of a basis for comparison, I think.


  3. Oh wow. I'm going to have to watch Oklahoma again because I don't remember most of those things. Like Krystal, I saw it 'years' ago as high school performance. I remember Jud and the songs, but the rest….I'm coming up blank. Obviously, it wasn't enough to leave a last impression on me.


  4. Oklahoma–my first exposure was watching the movie musical as a kid and REALLY not liking it. It felt so sappy to me at the time! And creepy as far as the love triangle. I never liked Ado Annie's big song (but love it as reinterpreted by Ali Stroker–if feels empowering now). Growing up, any time I had any exposure to its songs, I'd have a negative reaction. Or basically I considered it my least favorite musical (until I expanded my consumption of musicals and realized there were far worse ones out there). It wasn't until I saw John Raitt perform the title song–it was some kind of tribute show as I recall–I felt something different through his interpretation; there was quite a bit of depth there. I went to a local performance sometime later (I was a young adult by this time) and felt like the conflict between the ranchers and the farmers was a metaphor for racism. The musical has this real feel of people putting a veneer of All is Well while things simmer underneath. (Kind of like this country, though, and how we sweep our problems under the rug. Nothing to see here!)I love the diversity in this new production–I'd give it a shot, if I had the chance.


  5. Hmm. Well, Krystal above gave me links for a traditional approach to Oklahoma, so I'm eager to take a look because I want to see the differences. This was supposed to be a darker, more stripped down version anyway, so I guess it makes sense that it's troubling and unsettling anyway. Thanks for your insight, Margaret! Food for thought there.


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