OKLAHOMA! And the American Theatre

Posted: 
July 04, 2017

Happy 4th of July from everyone here at North Carolina Theatre Conservatory! As we celebrate our country, freedom, and lifestyles, we wanted to take a moment to also celebrate the history of musical theatre and the integral part it has and continues to play in our American culture. We also wanted to honor our NC Theatre Conservatory’s upcoming performance of Oklahoma!, and to share the importance of this show and how it completely changed and created new paths for many musical theatre shows we now know and love.

Many people expected Oklahoma! to fail. However, Oklahoma! wowed the audience and continued to for the next 5 years and 9 months. There was something majestic and nostalgic about watching this American musical on stage. It reminded American people of where they came from, the life they knew, real life situations that American's had experienced, present day cultural aspects, and it resonated with people in a way that many musicals had never done so before. It was an ultimate portrayal of an American story. Especially during the time period of World War II, where the United States’ future was uncertain and times were difficult.

An excerpt from NPR.com on the historical impact of the show quotes:

"There was a triple row of uniforms at the back of the theater, every matinee and every evening performance," Agnes de Mille says. "They loved the show. It was home time to them and home folks. They stood there with the tears pouring down their cheeks,"(Lunden, NPR.COM).

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!  was released in 1943 and it was a musical revolution. Before Oklahoma! premiered, musicals were only to showcase talents of the stars. Therefore, there was not a need to integrate songs, dances, comedy, and chorus numbers. Oklahoma!  changed this.  It integrated all of the many aspects of musical theatre by including a plot, songs that furthered the action of the story, and it featured a dream ballet and various dancers that were used to advance and develop main characters. This opened new doors and completely changed musical theatre history while it paved new ways for future musicals.

Our vision is to preserve the unique American art form of musical theatre and we believe that Oklahoma!  is an iconic show that tells an important story of our American heritage.  We are thrilled to see our Master STAS program students perform this show this upcoming weekend on the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater stage at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts this July 7-9th, and we hope to see you there!