Sexy, stripped down, suggestive, and reimagined: These are the words being used to describe the revival of Oklahoma!, beginning previews March 19.
It’s not how the classical musical would normally be described, but like the show did more than 75 years ago, as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration, it’s creating new territory in theater. “It was the Hamilton of its day,” describes Todd Purdam, who recently authored the composing team’s biography Something Wonderful. Fans know the plot: Laurey, a farm girl, is being pursued romantically by two rivals — cowboy Curly McLain and farmhand Jud Fry, who both want to take her to the box social — in their 1906 settler community in the western territories, a year before Oklahoma became a state. When Oklahoma! first opened on Broadway in 1943, it marked the first time a show integrated a play with song, character, and plot development along with dance to push the story forward. This new version, however, takes the grand musical production and pares it down, touching more closely on the script without losing a word.
“I really didn’t expect to love this show so much.”
“It surprised me so much,” says Brooklynite Rebecca Naomi Jones, who played Laurey in the St Ann’s Warehouse production, of this reimagined reincarnation, which does not alter a single line of text or lyric but still offers a modern interpretation of the musical. “I really didn’t expect to love this show so much. … I didn’t grow up on it. I was never an Oklahoma! person.” At first the role didn’t seem like the right fit for the actress, who has starred in the rock musicals Passing Strange, American Idiot, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Then a friend, who saw Jones in Fire in Dreamland at the Public Theatre, admitted she always seems to choose “interesting,” “unique,” and “weird” pieces of art: “’It’s not like I’m ever going to see you in a production of Oklahoma!” he quipped to Jones, not realizing that this very musical was her next project for those very reasons.
This version, directed by David Fish, first premiered at New York’s Bard College in 2015. It then transferred last fall to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. The show starts with Curly (Damon Daunno) singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” — but upends the audience’s expectation of seeing Curly crooning on a horse and instead has Daunno singing the classic while strumming an acoustic guitar. “Everyone has said this to me: They hear the show differently, they experience the characters differently, and they follow the journeys and the arc of the relationship differently,” explains producer Eva Price (Angels in America, Dear Evan Hansen).
Traditionally, Oklahoma! is full of dancing — backflips and switch leaps and a big production hoedown — but this version is toned down, from the choreography (by John Heginbotham) to the sets and costumes. At first, set designer Laura Jellinek couldn’t imagine the show being housed at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where the Tony Award–winning revival of Once on This Island just ended its run. The theatre had been filled with animals, sand, water, and part of a semitruck. “We saw it empty and it made more sense,” she said. For Jellinek, her goal was to keep the set simple and make the space feel intimate.
Costume designer Terese Wadden planned for the characters to wear the garb of everyday people, which is why she drew from denim as her inspiration. “I think that they are an expression of America and part of our history,” she describes of her clothing choices. Wadden dressed actress Ali Stroker (Glee) in cutoff jean shorts and a tank top to play Ado Annie.
“I feel like there is an emphasis on who this person is in a modern world.”
Stroker made her Broadway debut in the 2016 revival of Spring Awakening. Unlike Jones, Stroker was more familiar with the material after being first introduced to Oklahoma! in middle school while performing at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. “I had known [of] the production at Bard and it got a lot of attention for being something different,” she says, nothing that that was one reason why she was excited to do this production. “Ado Annie, in many productions of Oklahoma! that I have seen, feels sort of like a caricature. My version of Ado Annie, I feel like there is an emphasis on who this person is in a modern world. She’s not a caricature. I think this girl is really smart and she knows exactly what she is doing.”
In addition, Stroker was the first to play Ado Annie in a wheelchair. When she was 2, a car accident left her paralyzed. “I hope this revival and this specific character will remind audiences that the traditional musicals and characters we’ve seen for many years don’t always have to look the same way as they have for the past 75 years,” the actress says proudly.
Broadway veteran Mary Testa (42nd Street, Xanadu) played matriarch Aunt Eller, who cares for Laurey. She’s been with the production for five years. “We don’t have big production numbers, so we really take our time and pay attention to the script,” she explains of how this show doesn’t rush through the scenes to get to the next song. “All of the darkness, racism, and sexism came out because of the way we handled it.” For instance, Testa explains how Aunt Eller projects racism during the auction scene as she pushes who’s going to win. “It’s not all sunshine and flowers,” Testa says.
“The women’s voices are really heard. And I hope that people can leave the show hearing the book differently.”
The actors were directed to dig into the subtext that that’s already there. “[Laurey] is aware that she lives in a small pocket of the world,” Jones says of her interpretation. “She might desire to stretch beyond that, but she may not be able to, because of her circumstances. Conflicted feelings Laurey has toward Judd, for example, has led our production to have some questions about Laurey’s sexuality.” Stroker adds, “The women’s voices are really heard. And I hope that people can leave the show hearing the book differently.” Vulture observed: “In a sense, we’re watching Ado Annie and Laurey in their last days of freedom — one playful and unapologetically thirsty; the other restrained, anxious, and wistful, but no less desirous.”
Who do you please with this revival, then, when there are those who love a traditional classic and those who look for something that makes them uncomfortable? “Both,” declares Price. “It’s a constant challenge to create messages for both audiences.” Explains Testa, “It forces you to look at the history, how this country was formed and how it’s really not so pretty.” The original version and even the 1955 movie starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones hinted at some of the dark themes, but this show goes even further. And theater critics agree: A New Yorker headline praised: “An Oklahoma! for Today.” The Observer called it “sexy, suspenseful and surprisingly modern.”
Three quarters of a century after Oklahoma!’s first run, one that lasted for 2,212 performances before closing on May 29, 1948, the musical is still doing fine. “It holds a mirror up to all the goodness and also all the darkness. I think it’s really important right now,” says Testa, adding: “I’m thrilled to get another go at it because there’s still some stuff I want to figure out.”
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.