Today we enter new territory, crusaders — Best Revival of a Musical.
I know there are plenty of people out there who don’t like the “old-school” musicals and I understand their perspective. There are certainly dated aspects in many “classic” shows that need to be handled with care (and aren’t always). But leaving these shows in the past would be such a waste and this year’s “Oklahoma!” revival has made that case beautifully.
I also have to admit I have no objectivity when it comes to this Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. I get asked a lot what my favorite show is (which is a terrible question to ask a lover of theater), and it’s a question that I will never have an answer for. However, there certainly are a few shows that I cannot imagine life without and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” is one of them.
It’s one of the first shows I ever saw (the first was “Peter Pan,” for the record) and that’s a difficult bond to break. I can barely remember a time before I knew and loved the songs, dances, and story of “Oklahoma!”.
Of course, as is the case with most things in life, the meaning of this show has changed significantly for me since the first time I saw it. It’s a show that has a much more complex story to tell then I think a lot of people give it credit for. It’s a bright and bouncy score with a dark story to tell and that makes things so interesting (and makes the exclamation point take on new meaning).
What’s most fascinating about this revival to me is what they didn’t change. They changed a lot, to be clear, it’s a smaller cast, smaller band, smaller stage, the new ballet is everything, and there is 100% more chili served at intermission. But the thing they didn’t touch was the book. Spoiler alert (sort of?) the story is exactly the same, this team has just found a way to make the audience see it in a new way. And all I can say is it is an astonishing (nay impossible) thing to get to see a show again for the first time, and what an incredible gift.