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“Oklahoma” transforms the musical stage

Photo caption: Oklahoma! was first staged in 1932, and its boldness in staging and the use of realistic props set against stylized backdrops were milestones in the theatre. The original Oklahoma! cost $75,000 to produce and has earned many millions in literally thousands of productions over the years.

 Sentimental and romantic, evoking a bygone era, homespun and nostalgic, and daring at the same time that it was innocent, “Oklahoma’s” boldness came from its staging, exemplified by rejecting the traditional lavish opening number and instead showing a solitary figure on stage as the curtain rose.  The show’s sets were realistic and placed against stylized backdrops.  Colors were bright and strong, described by one theatre expert as “posteresque.”

The craftsmanship of IA carpenters, electricians and property persons was put to the best possible use.  They had to evoke everything from the wide-open spaces of the Oklahoma terrain, to the gloom and disarray of the smokehouse where the villain of the show lives.  In terms of craft, “Oklahoma” was truly a tour de force.

The show cost about $75,000 to put on and earned many millions in grosses during its 2,248 performances and its record-breaking road companies.  Somewhere in the U.S. and Canada, every single day, a performance of “Oklahoma” is being staged.