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Oklahoma! is the first musical that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together. The musical is based on Green Grow the Lilacs, a play by Lynn Riggs that came out in 1931. Set in 1906, the story took place on a farm outside of Claremore, Indian Territory.
Oklahoma! also has musical themes, or motifs, that are used repeatedly to link the music to the story. A 15-minute "dream ballet" shows how Laurey struggles with how she feels about Curly and Jud.
Oklahoma! was the first time famous partners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II worked together. It was a benchmark for musical theater in the United States. In Western Indian Territory around the turn of the 20th century, the love story between Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a beautiful farm girl, is set against the fierce rivalry between the farmers and cowboys in the area.
True love isn't easy to find, but there's no doubt that these two hopeless romantics can build a life together. Curly and Laurey are about to start their new life together in a brand-new state called OKLAHOMA, where the road to love and statehood meet.
Why did "Oklahoma!" do well?
The "Broadway musical" was the first major type of theater created in the United States, but by 1943, its style had become stagnant. Before Oklahoma, most hit shows were just ways for their stars to show off their skills. They only had a little to say that was important, and there was no reason to mix in the songs, dances, comedy routines, and excellent chorus girl numbers.
Conducting shows were expensive, and money was tight during the Great Depression, so producers mainly stuck to what had worked in the past.
The musical got a new shape in "Oklahoma!" This "integrated musical" changed how American theater was done. "Oklahoma!" was the perfect combination of music, words, dance, and stage. The show had a structure and a sense of gradually building drama that never had been witnessed before in a musical. Even the dance numbers helped move the story along and show more about the characters. The success was mainly due to the great words and music. The music was so popular that it was the first time a major label released an entire album of the original cast of a musical. This started the trend of recording original cast albums.