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 is a radical departure from the mostly fluffy musical comedies that had preceded it. It integrated the book (the spoken dialogue) with the music without attempting to justify it. 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.
This play contains examples of:
- Alternate Show Interpretation: The 2019 Broadway revival, which restaged the show in modern times, stripped down the orchestrations to a minimalist band, and had more of an emphasis on gun violence. It went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
- 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.
- Car Song: "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top", describing Curly's new sweet ride he's rented for the box social.
- 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 Bar Brawl at the social.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Excited Show Title!: In addition to the final title, an earlier one was the equally-excited 'Away We Go!'
- 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 an outsider/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: Laurey is horrified over this, weeps over this, has nightmares over this. Curly would rather see Jud dead than let him go through with this. Curly sells every prized possession he has to stop this from happening. And in the end Jud DIES over this. The crime? Asking Laurey out on a date, taking her to a party, and bidding on a picnic basket. To be fair, he does stalk her.
- 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."
- 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".
- 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 by brandishing a gun.
- "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.
- Location Song: "Oklahoma", about the joy of living there.
- 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 will instead take what he wants (i.e. Laurie) and kill whoever stands in his way.
- Serial Killer: In all likelihood, Jud himself. Some productions add more hints of this to keep him from being too sympathetic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.