10 things you may not know about Oklahoma! - Lyric Opera of Chicago

10 things you may not know about Oklahoma!

1) Oklahoma!—now celebrating its 70th anniversary!—marks an important turning point in the history of musical theater. It was brilliantly ahead of its time in its seamless integration of dialogue, song, and especially dance.

2) Chicago has always loved Oklahoma!—just 6 months after the show’s triumphant 1943 Broadway premiere, it opened at Chicago’s Erlanger Theater, playing to sold-out houses for a year!

3) Unlike most Broadway musicals today, Lyric’s Oklahoma! features a world-class, 37-member orchestra—the lush sound imagined by Rodgers & Hammerstein. The amazing duo went on to create Carousel, South Pacific,The King and I, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music.

4) Renowned sound consultants collaborated with Lyric Opera on a new sound system especially for Oklahoma!

5) Oklahoma! bucked the trend of starting with a big chorus number, instead opening with the now-famous “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” for a single character, Curly—a role that has been portrayed by stars including Alfred Drake, Howard Keel, Gordon MacRae, John Raitt (Bonnie’s dad!), Hugh Jackman, and now, John Cudia.

6) Composer Richard Rodgers was the first of only 11 people to have won all four top show business awards including the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT). Other EGOT winners include Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Mel Brooks, and Whoopi Goldberg.

7) Agnes de Mille’s legendary Oklahoma! choreography marked the first time dance was used to move the story forward—especially in the thrilling "Dream Ballet" and the rousing "The Farmer and the Cowman.” Her choreography is supervised at Lyric by her close associate, Gemze de Lappe—who danced the “Dream Laurey” in the national company in 1943.

8) The year before Oklahoma!, Agnes de Mille—Oklahoma!'s choreographer and niece of the great Cecil B. de Mille—created the celebrated American ballet, Rodeo with music by Aaron Copland. De Mille danced the leading role of the Cowgirl in Rodeo’s premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House.

9) Oklahoma! was based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, who was born on a farm near Claremore, Oklahoma (the setting of the show). Riggs was also the Hollywood screenwriter for two Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone.

10) Lyric Opera’s Oklahoma! team reads like a Broadway & operatic “Who’s Who,” with:

•Director Gary Griffin (Broadway’s The Color Purple and The Apple Tree, both Tony-nominated; brilliant productions of The Mikado and The Merry Widow at Lyric; associate artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater with a long list of award-winning Sondheim and other productions)
•John Cudia, best known as the star of Broadway’s Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera 
•Ashley Brown, star of Disney’s original Mary Poppins on Broadway and Magnolia/Show Boat at Lyric
•David Adam Moore has starred as Demetrius/A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Scala, and made his Lyric Opera debut as Stanley/A Streetcar Named Desire 
•Tari Kelly, featured in Anything Goes and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Broadway
•Curtis Holbrook recently starred as Sonny Malone in Broadway’s Xanadu 
•Conductor James Lowe (Broadway’s Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes) 
•Choreographer Gemze de Lappe (Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater)
•John Lee Beatty, designer of more than a hundred Broadway productions since 1976
•Costume designer Mara Blumenfeld (Broadway transfer of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses) and The Merry Widow at Lyric

More about Oklahoma!