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Theatre / Oklahoma!

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We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand!
And when we say, "Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!"
We're only sayin', "You're doin' fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma, O.K.!"

Oklahoma! is a 1943 musical, possibly the most influential musical in the genre. It was based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs and adapted by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Set in 1906, it tells the story of a young cowboy named Curly, and a farm girl, Laurey. They're obviously in love, but neither of them will admit it. The sinister farmhand, Jud, asks Laurey to a dance. Laurey is afraid of him, but she accepts to spite Curly. The story takes a dark turn as Laurey realizes that Jud is dangerous, and that, if she were to turn him down, he could become violent.

The musical, which ran a then-unprecedented 2,212 performances (up to then, even hit musicals rarely ran more than a year), is a radical departure from the mostly fluffy musical comedies that had preceded it. It integrated the book (the spoken dialogue) with the music and used the songs to create Character Development and subtext. Its use of dance as adding to the plot and atmosphere was also a change from the showgirls of previous musicals. It was not the first to use such techniques (Show Boat, which also featured lyrics and libretto written by Hammerstein, predated it by nearly 20 years), but its impact is unmistakable.

Oklahoma! was successfully adapted to film in 1955, and has been revived numerous times on Broadway and in London.

If you're looking for information on the state where the musical was set, see Oklahoma (U.S.A.).

This play contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The 2019 revival changed the ending where instead of attacking Curly with a knife at the wedding, Jud gives him a gun as a wedding present and essentially forces Curly to shoot him. After this, the cast reprised "Oklahoma!" but done in a way that they all looked broken by what had occurred.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the movie, Jud not only tries to kill Curly at the wedding but tries to kill Laurey as well via setting their hayride on fire. The removal of his "Lonely Room" song, where he initially angsted about his life and his shattered dreams, also serves to make him more villainous than onstage.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Will Parker/Ado Annie subplot was invented by Hammerstein to give the show a Beta Couple; Will Parker doesn't appear in the original play, though Curly mentions knowing another cowboy by that name.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Oklahoma is based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs.
  • Alternate Show Interpretation: The 2019 Broadway revival, which restaged the show in modern times, stripped down the orchestrations to a minimalist bluegrass band, and had more of an emphasis on the community ostracizing Jud, Curly's darker side, and gun violence. It went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
  • Beta Couple: Will and Ado Annie. Their romance is more straightforward that Laurey and Curly's in that both actually admit that they love each other, but is complicated by Annie's promiscuity and Andrew's dislike of Will as a suitor for his daughter.
  • Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress: For the 2019 revival, the ending was changed to have Curly shoot Jud at point-blank range, leading to his groom outfit and Laurey's wedding dress being covered in blood.
  • Book Ends: The play and movie begin with Curly singing, "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" before asking Laurey out to the dance, and end with everyone singing the song while celebrating Curley's and Laurey's marriage and Oklahoma's becoming a state.
  • Bowdlerise: In the play, "Kansas City" had a part with Will singing about how one of the burlesque girls he saw undressed herself to prove that she had a shapely figure, as opposed to a padded outfit. In the movie, Will sings about how when she danced, her body moved naturally.
  • Brainless Beauty: Ado Annie attracts the attention of many men but is too naive to understand the difference between a man who really loves her and a man who wants nothing to do with her after their one night together.
  • Car Song: "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top", describing Curly's new sweet ride he's rented for the box social.
  • The Casanova: Ali Hakim, who has a girl (or two or three) in every town along his peddling route.
  • Cool Old Lady: Aunt Eller. At one point, she brandishes a gun at everyone, in order to make sure everyone gets along.
  • Dark Reprise: The 'sarcastic echo' version occurs in the supposedly friendly and upbeat "The Farmer and the Cowman", which keeps being undercut as the farmers and the cowmen interject sarcastic comments into the praises of the other. Unlike most other sarcastic echoes, the other party does notice and it nearly leads to a Bar Brawl at the social.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 2019 revival placed much more emphasis on the darkness of the show, achieving this primarily through staging the most uncomfortable scenes completely in the dark, leaving the lights on otherwise so the audience was complicit, giving more sympathy to Jud as an outsider ostracized by the town, and changing the ending into a case of Suicide by Cop while keeping the cheery finale song.
  • Disney Acid Sequence:
    • The traditional dream ballet starts out normal enough as Laurey and Curly happily dance and are to be wed, then takes an abrupt turn into nightmare territory when Jud appears and takes control of the dreamscape as burlesque dancers appear and force Laurey into joining their number. Then dream-Jud kills dream-Curly during a fight, with the 1955 movie adaptation adding an even more surreal tone by having their fight take place in a tornado and Jud not reacting to gunshots at all before closing in on Curly.
    • The 2019 revival of the show portrayed the dream ballet with a single dancer who represented Laurey's self-consciousness and intimacy, and fled as cowboy boots fell from the sky while Jud swept them offstage, with electric guitars heard nowhere else on the soundtrack to emphasize the feeling of being out-of-place. Previews additionally had Curly and Jud strip down and swap clothes, metaphorically walking in each other's skin.
  • Dream Ballet: After "Out of My Dreams", Laurey sniffs smelling salts, leading to one of these where she faces choosing between Curly and Jud. Originally choreographed by Agnes de Mille, it's probably the Trope Codifier.
  • Driven to Suicide: Curly attempts to do this to Jud in "Pore Jud is Daid", telling him how much people would appreciate him once he was dead.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: The title song, added between tryouts and the show's Broadway premiere, provides a big boost of energy right before the show's ending. The song was so catchy it replaced "Away We Go" as the show's title.
  • Ethical Slut: Ado Annie is equal-opportunity in terms of loving the man she's with.
  • Everyone Can See It: Laurey and Curly have an entire song about how obvious their mutual feelings are to everyone around them in "People Will Say We're In Love".
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Jud Fry is almost always cast as a bass, although the 1979 revival saw Martin Vidnovic play Jud, and "Lonely Room" was transposed up a third (still keeping it in baritone territory, but with a tessitura higher than a bass's song would have.)
  • Eyepiece Prank: A deadly version with "The Little Wonder," which is a kaleidoscope with a hidden blade attached. When the victim looks through the eyepiece, the killer springs the blade.
  • Farmer's Daughter: Ado Annie is the beautiful and promiscuous daughter of tough-as-nails farmer Andrew Carnes, who doesn't take kindly to hearing that Ali Hakim has been seeing her, and "suggests" he marry her.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Ali Hakim's forced marriage to Gertie Cummings. "I thought it would be better to be alive, but now I ain't so sure."
  • Fauxreigner: Ali Hakim can be one depending on the production. Despite the character claiming to be Persian, the part was written for a "Jewish Comic"-type actor, and it is in line with the characterization for Hakim to be more worldly than the characters (which a Jew from New York City would be in the setting), but still lying about his background in being American-born. The role finally went to an actual Muslim (although not an Iranian) in a major production when the 2002 Broadway revival gave the part to Aasif Mandvi.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Zigzagged with Jud's bid for Laurey's picnic basket at the box social. Laurey is horrified to the point of having nightmares at the thought. Several of the townsmen bid more than they can afford to save her. Curly sells all his possessions to keep it from happening. And in the end Jud DIES for it. On the other hand, Jud is Laurey's stalker, and it's quite clear that her picnic basket isn't what he's after.
  • Final Love Duet: "Let People Say We're in Love" - which, unlike most instances of this trope, is actually a reprise (with different lyrics) of the earlier flirty duet "People Will Say We're in Love."
  • Good Bad Girl: Ado Annie "cain't say no" but she's not treated unsympathetically, and her background doesn't keep her from getting a decent man.
  • Hidden Depths: Ali Hakim may be a womanizing peddler, but he is the one who tells Aunt Eller about "the little wonder", saving Curly's life.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The 2019 revival, sometime nicknamed "Sexy Oklahoma" or the coarser "Fucklahoma".
  • Immune to Bullets: Jud in the movie's Dream Ballet doesn't even react to Curly's shots.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Curly shows these off during his confrontation with Jud, shooting through a knothole "no bigger than a dime".
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: Subverted with "The Farmer and the Cowman," which begins like this, but soon turns into a heated argument and a fight between the farmers and cowboys, which Aunt Eller has to break up with a "Shut Up!" Gunshot.
  • "I Want" Song: Jud's "Lonely Room" has him resolving to pursue Laurey and not to leave her alone. Given his general character, this comes off as quite a bit of an Obsession Song.
  • Kangaroo Court: The final sequence is the entire town holding a mock trial to excuse Curly for a murder charge. Regardless of whether or not he should have been guilty, they didn't even bother to hide that they were going to happily let him go after a few seconds.
  • Karma Houdini: Curly's conversation with Jud during "Pore Jud is Daid." Nothing is done to point out how wrong this is.
    • Also, Curly is allowed to go free after killing Jud, with no arrest or trial. Downplayed in the original play, where Curly goes to jail to await trial, but the townsfolk allow him to escape for one night so he and Laurey can have a honeymoon.
  • Location Song: "Oklahoma!", about the joy of living there.
  • Love Triangle: Curly, Laurey, and Jud; Will, Annie, and Ali Hakim. Even Laurey, Curly, and Gertie Cummings qualify to a lesser extent.
  • Madness Mantra: "Think you're better than me..."
  • Melancholy Musical Number: Curly attempts to persuade Jud to hang himself, and "Lonely Room" begins with Jud detailing how miserable his life is. However, at the end, rather than deciding to kill himself, he decides he will instead take what he wants (i.e. Laurey) and kill whoever stands in his way.
  • Minimalism: The 2019 revival eschewed the orchestras favored by earlier productions and had just 7 musicians, with a minimalist set that overlapped with the audience to make them just as much a part of the show.
  • Mobile Kiosk: Ali Hakim the peddler has one of these, from which he sells just about everything, including the 'magic potion' (i.e. laudanum) Laurey takes to receive her dream vision.
  • The Musical: Of Green Grow The Lilacs an otherwise-obscure 1930 play by Lynn Riggs.
  • Mythology Gag: The movie having Jud set the hayride on fire is a reference to the play Oklahoma! was based on, Green Grow the Lilacs, where Jeeter Fry did the same thing.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: A lesson Jud would do well to learn, as he falls on his own knife when Curly dodges his attack.
  • Obsession Song: Jud Frye's song "Lonely Room" starts off as a self-pitying reflection of how empty and meaningless his life is, but turns into an angry obsession song by the end as he decides he is going to leave his room and take what he believes is his by rights, i.e. Laurey.
  • Pair the Spares: Ali Hakim and Gertie, although Ali Hakim would have been happier to end up alone.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Andrew Carnes' won't give his consent to Will marrying his daughter Ado Annie unless Will can prove that he can earn, and hang on to, $50 ($1,400 in today's money).
  • Please, I Will Do Anything!: Not outright stated in dialogue, but in the dream sequence Laurey suggests that she will do anything to have Jud spare Curly's life.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: The walls of the smokehouse where Jud lives are plastered with pink pictures of women from old covers of Police Gazette.
  • Really Gets Around: Ado Annie. She is a girl who can't say no, after all.
  • Serial Killer: Jud tells Curly about a farmhand who fell in love with his employers' daughter and when she rejected him, he burned down the farmhouse, killing the girl and her parents, and got away with it. Whether this is Jud disguising a story about something he did himself or just an example of misguided admiration is unclear, but hinting it to be the former keeps him from being too sympathetic.
  • Sex Dressed: At the end of the show, Ado Annie reappears with mussed hair, a contented expression on her face and straw clinging to the back of her dress. It looks like she's resolved her quarrel with Will the Good Bad Girl way.
  • Sharpshooter Fallacy: In order to try to impress/threaten Jud, Curly shoots a knothole in a beam on the ceiling and claims it was his target. When Aunt Eller comes in to inspect the shot, he tries to make the same claim and she points out that there are a lot of knotholes up on the ceiling.
  • Shipper on Deck: Pretty much the entire town for Laurey/Curly, as the song "People Will Say We're in Love" hints at. Most definitely Aunt Eller.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Ali Hakim seems to attract these— Carnes tries to force him to marry Ado Annie. He escapes that one, only to be forced to marry the intolerable Gertie Cummings.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Ali Hakim, who peddles patent medicines alongside everything else.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Jud idolizes Laurey, but his poor social skills and abrasive demeanor make her uncomfortable just being around him. Her intuition is right: when she firmly rejects him, he threatens her and later makes an attempt on her husband's life.
  • Stealth Insult: In "Pore Jud is Daid", Curly spends an entire song attempting to persuade Jud to kill himself, including multiple stealth insults. The highlight is probably:
    And he treated the rats like equals! Which was right!
  • Threatening Mediator: When the number "The Farmer and the Cowman" breaks up into a feud between the two groups, Aunt Eller intervenes and holds the ensemble at gunpoint to finish the number through to the Aesop.
  • Three Faces of Eve: Aunt Eller is the Wife, Ado Annie is the Seductress, Laurey is the Child.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Some versions of Laurey (the rough-and-tumble farm girl) and Ado Annie (a voluptuous Farmer's Daughter who enjoys male attention).
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The ad for the general theatrical release of the CinemaScope version of the movie revealed who Laurey would pick, and how the other man would exact his revenge. (Text in the trailer seems to basically state, "This musical has become so famous by now, that everyone knows how the story goes.") Ads for the movie's home video releases also tend to spoil the former.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: This is Will's problem, which is why he needs to prove to Annie's father Andrew Carnes that he has $50 ($1,400 in today's money) to show he can earn, and hold on to, enough money to support Ado Annie.
  • Villainous Crush: Jud is obsessed with having Laurey to himself, and will do whatever he has to do to get her, including threats and murder. Since he never follows through on a threat and ends up dead, how much one considers Jud to be a villain is up for debate.
  • Villain Song: "Lonely Room," and it's a damn good one. This is the moment that it becomes clear that, Curly being kind of a jerk to him aside, Jud is actually quite dangerous and Laurey may be in trouble. Doubles as an Obsession Song.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Curly tries to Mind Screw Jud into committing suicide. Why? So that Jud won't be around to ask Laurey out. Even in the productions that add the rapey undertones, this scene happens before Jud does anything worse than express an interest in the same girl as Curly.

Alternative Title(s): Oklahoma