News and Events
Students Stage Fine Arts' Fall Musical, “Oklahoma!”
The Pepperdine University Fine Arts Division will stage its fall musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, November 8 to 17, bringing to Smothers Theatre, Malibu, the beloved American tale of cowboys, farmers, and true love in the early 20th century.
"Oklahoma!'s position as one of the most beloved American musicals is rightly deserved, and we are thrilled to be presenting it at Pepperdine," says director Bradley Griffin, associate professor of theatre and coordinator of the theatre program. "The students in the cast are bringing these classic characters to life with an energy and vitality that will have audience members shouting for more."
Griffin directs the 34-person Pepperdine student cast, which includes Tyler Burk as Curly, Lauren Long as Laurey, Kelsey Sutton as Ado Annie, Dimitri Smith as Jud Fry, Grace Edmundson as Aunt Eller, Gifford Tompkins as Will Parker, and Jon Gibson as Ali Hakim. Tony Cason, visiting professor of music, will conduct the Pepperdine University Orchestra's performance of the score, which includes the well known songs "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" and "Surrey With the Fringe on Top."
Oklahoma! launched a new era in the American musical. It also began the most successful songwriting partnership in Broadway history. Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaboration remains, in many ways, their most innovative, having set the standards and established the rules of musical theatre still being followed today.
Set in a western Indian territory just after the turn of the century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Although the road to true love never runs smooth, we have no doubt that they will succeed in making a new life together and that this new life will begin in a brand-new state, providing the ultimate climax to the triumphant Oklahoma!
In 1942 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were at the top of their field, writing musical comedies universally praised for their wit, sophistication, and innovation. A decade earlier Oscar Hammerstein II had been at the top of his field, writing operettas that consistently challenged and reshaped the art form; his Show Boat, written with Jerome Kern in 1927, is considered a landmark of the American stage.
Independent of each other, both Rodgers and Hammerstein were attracted to Lynn Riggs' folk play of life in his native Oklahoma titled Green Grow the Lilacs. When Jerome Kern declined Hammerstein's invitation to write the musical adaptation with him, and when Hart bowed out of his commitment to musicalize the work with Rodgers, it was inevitable that the ensuing musical play would become the first work by the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian and choreographed by a then-unknown ballet choreographer named Agnes de Mille, Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical version of Lilacs, titled Away We Go, was given its world premiere engagement at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, in March 1943. Only a few changes were made on the road, but they were significant. One number, "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," was cut, and a number about the land, originally planned as a duet for Laurey and Curly, became instead a show-stopping song called "Oklahoma." So successful was this number during the musical's pre-Broadway engagement in Boston that the decision was made to add an exclamation point to the title and make it the name of the show.
Oklahoma! opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on March 31, 1943. At that time, the longest running show in Broadway history had run for three years. Oklahoma! surpassed that record by two more years, running for a marathon 2,212 performances. The national tour crisscrossed the United States for an unprecedented 10 years and six months, visiting every single state and playing before a combined audience of more than 10 million people. In 1947 Oklahoma! opened at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, where it ran for 1,548 performances, the longest run of any show up to that time in the 267-year history of that theatre.
In 1953 the Oklahoma state legislature named "Oklahoma" the official state song. In 1955 the motion picture version of Oklahoma!, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones and produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein, was released to great success. Major revivals have since been seen on Broadway, in London's West End, and across Australia.
Oklahoma! is presented through special arrangement with R&H Theatricals. The performances will take from Thursday, Nov. 8 to Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m.; and Thursday, Nov. 15 to Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets, priced at $20 for the public, $10 for Pepperdine students, and $16 for Pepperdine faculty and staff, are available now by calling the Pepperdine Center for the Arts box office at (310) 506-4522. Tickets for the general public are also available through Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787.
For more information, visit the Center for the Arts website.