The Kennedy Center will host a U.S. touring production of the Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!. The musical will enjoy a long stay at the center's Eisenhower Theatre, June 30-Sept. 6, 2003.
A spokesman for the Kennedy Center said the visit was part of a tour, but it not necessarily the first stop. The DC engagement is the first road booking of the Cameron Mackintosh-produced Oklahoma! to be announced.
It took a few years to get here, but on March 21, the praised 1998 Trevor Nunn-Susan Stroman Royal National Theatre production of Oklahoma! officially opened on Broadway, after previews from Feb. 23, at a renovated and streamlined Gershwin Theatre. Patrick Wilson and Andrea Martin head the cast as Curly and Aunt Eller. Joining them are Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey, and Shuler Hensley as Jud. The latter two recreate the roles they played in London, first at the Royal National Theatre and then on the West End.
Oklahoma! was one of the first of many splashy revivals of classic American musicals which Nunn produced as the artistic director of the National Theatre. The mounting was praised as a fresh rethinking of a show which had over the years become a museum piece. The interpretation's most startling shift with the past involved Susan Stroman's choreography. Stroman was hired with the understanding that she would redesign the famed Act One ballet sequence from the ground up, eschewing Agnes DeMille's famous footwork. In Stroman and Nunn's conception, the actors dance in the show's dream ballets, a break with the tradition of when a "Dream Laurey" and "Dream Curly" would be cast.
Stroman created the 15-minute-long ballet sequence and the sprawling Act Two "The Farmer and the Cowman" number before her recent monumental successes with Contact, The Music Man and The Producers.
The production's other principals are: Jessica Boevers, Philia in the most recent Broadway Forum revival, as Ado Annie Carnes; Justin Bohon, a Miss Saigon vet, as Will Parker; Aasif Mandvi, Obie Award-winner for his solo show, Sakina's Restaurant, as "Persian" peddler Ali Hakim; Michael McCarty, with Sweeney Todd and Big River to his credit, as Andrew Carnes; Ronn Carroll, of Steel Pier and Annie Get Your Gun, as Ike Skidmore.
The production originated at the Royal National Theatre in 1998 and twice tried to transfer to New York before finally succeeding. The earlier efforts failed, variously, because of Equity complaints over the all British cast and Nunn and Stroman's tight schedules. This 2002 staging dovetails nicely with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Rodgers.
The RNT staging broke all box office records at the theatre and transferred to the West End's Lyceum Theatre for a limited engagement. The staging received four Olivier Awards, including Outstanding Musical Production.