Lyric Opera of Chicago

New production/company premiere of Oklahoma!

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lyric Opera of Chicago announces creative team and
performance dates for new production/company premiere of 
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s OKLAHOMA!

Stage Director: Gary Griffin
Set Designer: John Lee Beatty
Costume Designer: Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting Designer: Christine Binder
Original Choreography: Agnes de Mille
Cast to be announced

16 performances May 4 – 19, 2013
Tickets go on sale to Lyric subscribers July 18
and to general public Weds. Aug. 1 –  $34 to $153        

New Lyric Opera production generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, The Negaunee Foundation, Northern Trust, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, and Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills.

Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today the creative team and performance dates for Oklahoma!  The classic American musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II will receive its Lyric Opera premiere in May 2013, following the company’s regular opera season.

Gary Griffin will direct the new production, with set designs by John Lee Beatty (Lyric debut), costume designs by Mara Blumenfeld, and lighting design by Christine Binder. The famous original choreography by Agnes de Mille will be presented.  Conductor and  cast will be announced at a later date.

Oklahoma! will receive 16 performances at the Civic Opera House May 4 through 19, with two performances on Wednesdays  and Saturdays.

“As with Show Boat, Lyric Opera is looking forward to giving its audiences a wonderful production of this great Broadway classic in lavish Lyric style,” said Freud. “We are also pleased to be able to present this production at popular Broadway prices.”

Oklahoma! is an essential work in the history of the American musical theater. The idea of a musical about farmers and cowboys was unimaginable to theatergoers and critics in 1943, but they were proven wrong by composer Richard Rodgers, librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, and the visionary producers at New York’s Theatre Guild. Oklahoma! captivated Broadway (and eventually, audiences the world over) by integrating its glorious songs and exuberant dances into a story of plainspoken, deeply human, thoroughly American characters, pioneers in the pre-statehood west of 1907.

Oklahoma! centers on Laurey, a young farm owner, and Curly, the cowboy who’s sweet on her. He gets Laurey’s hopes up by describing the fancy carriage in which he wants to drive her to the Box Social, but then confesses that he made the whole thing up. Annoyed, Laurey decides to let Jud, her surly farmhand, escort her instead. The men’s rivalry turns dangerous, and Laurey fires Jud. When Curly proposes to Laurey, she joyfully accepts, but Jud breaks in on their wedding celebration. Fighting with Curly, he falls on his knife and dies. The local judge lets Curly off on self-defense and the newlyweds leave on their honeymoon, exhilarated by their new life and by Oklahoma’s exciting future.

The score includes many of musical theater’s most beloved melodies, including those sung by the central couple – Curly’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” Laurey’s “Many a New Day,” and their duet, “People Will Say We’re in Love.”  There is delightful contrast with the comic couple, Ado Annie (“I Cain’t Say No”) and Will Parker (“Kansas City”). Dance sequences are central to Oklahoma! – above all, the famous dream ballet ending Act One, and the exuberant square dance (“The Farmer and the Cowman”) that opens Act Two.

Vital to Lyric’s production will be the recreation of the original choreography of Agnes de Mille, whose influence on American dance (particular for musical theater) over more than four decades was incalculable. 

Directing Lyric’s production will be Gary Griffin, whose work has been seen on the Lyric stage in acclaimed new productions of The Merry Widow (debut, 2009-10) and The Mikado (2010-11). Associate director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Griffin has also created productions for Broadway (The Color Purple, The Apple Tree), City Center “Encores,” Carnegie Hall, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and many of America’s most prominent regional theaters.  His London credits include Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse (Olivier Award-Outstanding Musical Production, Olivier Award nomination for Best Director).  He has received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing.

Set designer John Lee Beatty received his 14th Tony Award nomination in 2012 for Other Desert Cities; he won a Tony Award for Talley’s Folly. Since 1973 Beatty has designed sets for nearly 80 Broadway productions, including the long-running revival of Chicago; the Pulitzer Prize winners Doubt, Proof, and Rabbit Hole; The Color Purple; The Heiress; The Sisters Rosensweig; and the revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance.  Other productions include A View from the Bridge, The Royal Family, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Finian's Rainbow, Time Stands Still, Mauritius, Dinner at Eight, Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Heiress, The Most Happy Fella, Burn This, Penn & Teller, Ain't Misbehavin', Fifth of July, and Crimes of the Heart, among others.

Costume designer Mara Blumenfeld’s  work has been seen previously at Lyric in The Merry Widow.  She is an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre Company, for which she has designed more than 25 productions . including Lookingglass Alice, The Brothers Karamazov, Hard Times, and Around the World in 80 Days. She has designed numerous productions for the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  New York credits include Mary Zimmerman’s off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Metamorphoses, and her productions of Lucia di Lammermoor and La Sonnambula for the Metropolitan Opera.

Christine Binder has designed lighting for nearly 20 Lyric Opera productions since 1997, including The Merry Widow, Faust, and Tosca. She is an artistic associate at Lookingglass Theatre Company, where she designed Lookingglass Alice, The Brothers Karamazov Sita Ram, 1984, Hillbilly Antigone, and several other productions.  She has designed lighting for Northlight Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre, Redmoon Theater, and numerous opera and theater companies nationally.

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