The lauded 1998-99 London staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, with direction by Trevor Nunn and choreography by Susan Stroman, will finally make it to Broadway, opening March 21, 2002, producer Cameron Mackintosh announced May 17.
The Gershwin Theatre, one of Broadway's larger houses, will be home to Curly, Laurey, Jud, Ado Annie, Will Parker and the other Oklahomans of the 1943 landmark musical. Patrick Wilson, who is currently nominated for a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for The Full Monty, is in negotiations to play the lead role of Curly, who croons "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and "People Will Say We're in Love," among other songs in the score by lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Richard Rodgers. Wilson was Billy Bigelow in the national tour of the revisionist London staging of R&H's Carousel. The innocent plot concerns farmgirl Laurey being pulled between brooding farmhand Jud and charming cowboy Curly.
The Gershwin Theatre's current resident, Riverdance, will vacate on Aug. 26. Previews for Oklahoma! begin Feb. 23. The most recent Broadway revival was in 1979, under the supervision of Rodgers and directed by William Hammerstein. The new Oklahoma! opens in the centennial year of the late Rodgers' birth.
The Trevor Nunn-directed, Stroman-choreographed production originated at the Royal National Theatre and has twice tried to transfer to New York. Both times it failed, variously because of Equity complaints over the all-British cast and Nunn and Stroman's tight schedules. Broadway casting is ongoing. American actor Shuler Hensley, who won the Outstanding Featured Actor Olivier Award for playing Jud in London, is currently playing Javert in Mackintosh's Broadway staging of Les Miserables.
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. The musical was considered groundbreaking for its melding of book, score and dance. The Agnes de Mille ballet concepts that have been passed down through history were reconsidered by Stroman and the revival was praised for its streamlined musical numbers. In London, Stroman chose not the have a so-called "Dream Curly" and "Dream Laurey" — the lead actors were also the lead dancers in the dream ballet. The musical marked the first collaboration of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The pair would work together for the next 18 years, changing the course of musical theatre history with often serious-minded works that with songs that carried the story forward and revealed character. Oklahoma! was based on Lynn Riggs' play, Green Grow the Lilacs, about innocent folk in the Oklahoma territory around the turn of the century, prior to statehood.