Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today the creative team and performance dates for Oklahoma! The classic American musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II will receive its Lyric Opera premiere in May 2013, following the company's regular opera season.
Gary Griffin will direct the new production, with set designs by John Lee Beatty(Lyric debut), costume designs by Mara Blumenfeld, and lighting design byChristine Binder. The famous original choreography by Agnes De Mille will be presented. Casting will be announced at a later date.
Oklahoma! will receive 16 performances at the Civic Opera House May 4 through 19, with two performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays. A free 25-minute lecture will precede each performance an hour before curtain.
"As with Show Boat, Lyric Opera is looking forward to giving its audiences a wonderful production of this great Broadway classic in lavish Lyric style," said Freud. "We are also pleased to be able to present this production at popular Broadway prices."
Oklahoma! is an essential work in the history of the American musical theater. The idea of a musical about farmers and cowboys was unimaginable to theatergoers and critics in 1943, but they were proven wrong by composerRichard Rodgers, librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, and the visionary producers at New York's Theatre Guild. Oklahoma! captivated Broadway (and eventually, audiences the world over) by integrating its glorious songs and exuberant dances into a story of plainspoken, deeply human, thoroughly American characters, pioneers in the pre-statehood west of 1907.
Oklahoma! centers on Laurey, a young farm owner, and Curly, the cowboy who's sweet on her. He gets Laurey's hopes up by describing the fancy carriage in which he wants to drive her to the Box Social, but then confesses that he made the whole thing up. Annoyed, Laurey decides to let Jud, her surly farmhand, escort her instead. The men's rivalry turns dangerous, and Laurey fires Jud. When Curly proposes to Laurey, she joyfully accepts, but Jud breaks in on their wedding celebration. Fighting with Curly, he falls on his knife and dies. The local judge lets Curly off on self-defense and the newlyweds leave on their honeymoon, exhilarated by their new life and by Oklahoma's exciting future.
The score includes many of musical theater's most beloved melodies, including those sung by the central couple – Curly's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," Laurey's "Many a New Day," and their duet, "People Will Say We're in Love." There is delightful contrast with the comic couple, Ado Annie ("I Cain't Say No") and Will Parker ("Kansas City"). Dance sequences are central to Oklahoma! – above all, the famous dream ballet ending Act One, and the exuberant square dance ("The Farmer and the Cowman") that opens Act Two.
Vital to Lyric's production will be the recreation of the original choreography ofAgnes De Mille, whose influence on American dance (particular for musical theater) over more than four decades was incalculable.
Directing Lyric's production will be Gary Griffin, whose work has been seen on the Lyric Stage in acclaimed new productions of The Merry Widow (debut, 2009-10) and The Mikado (2010-11). Associate director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Griffin has also created productions for Broadway (The Color Purple, The Apple Tree), City Center "Encores," Carnegie Hall, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and many of America's most prominent regional theaters. His London credits include Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse (Olivier Award-Outstanding Musical Production, Olivier Award nomination for Best Director). He has received eight Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing.