Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31: "Oklahoma!"

On this date in History ..... 1943:

A Broadway show opened that many felt was a flop from the start and wouldn’t make it. In fact, a newspaper columnist saw a preview and sent the to his paper, a message about the show of “No girls.  No legs.  No chance.”

But on March 31, 1943, the show that had been originally titled “Away We Go” opened on Broadway under the new title of “Oklahoma!” and began a run that would last 15 years and set a Broadway record of 2212 performances.

Why was the show considered risky?  To start with, there were no big name stars in the show.  It was also the first time that Rogers teamed up with Hammerstein. It also chanced combining “music and dance in service with storytelling rather than spectacle.”  At the time, most Broadway shows opened with a huge musical number but this show opened with a lone cowboy singing about the weather and corn with the song "Oh What a Beautiful Morning". 

The title song “Oklahoma!” had been changed from a solo number to a “full cast show stopper” just weeks before the opening.   At the end of the show, the applause was so deafening and it just kept on and on.  The cast returned for two encores. Members of the cast didn’t think they would ever stop applauding.

It was the first Broadway musical in which every single song had a direct relation to the plot, and in which there were none that were simply musical interludes.  The 1955 movie was Shirley Jones’s film debut. The film’s soundtrack album became one of the most successful movie musical albums ever released and continues to be a popular seller today.


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