Performance dates: 26th February – 1st March 2008
Venue: Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke
Oklahoma! was an instant success and ran for a record breaking 2,212 performances only to be beaten 15 years later by ‘My Fair Lady’. World War II delayed the opportunity for the show to be seen in London but when it arrived in 1947, starring a little known Harold (Howard) Keel, it had a profound affect on the British public. Brought up on a diet of Ivor Novello and Noel Coward, and living under the grey clouds of post-war austerity; audiences were won over by the upbeat, optimistic themes and colourful spectacle. From that moment, the American musical was to reign supreme for decades to come. The 1955 film, starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, is still a popular favourite today and the show continues to be one of the most often revived by both professionals and amateurs. The recent National Theatre production, headed by Maureen Lipman, was critically acclaimed and a studio version was filmed specially for release on video.
In the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), during the land rush of 1907, Laurey, with the help of her Aunt Eller, is managing the family farm. She has two suitors: charming cowboy Curly McLain and Jud Fry, her dark, brooding farmhand. Though she favours Curly, to spite him she agrees to let Jud drive her to the Box Lunch Social.
Will Parker has returned from Kansas City where he has won fifty dollars in a steer roping contest and plans to claim man-crazy Ado Annie as his bride. Her father, Andrew Carnes, has told him that if he ever had that much money she would be his. Unfortunately, Will has spent the money on presents, and is broke again. Carnes insists Annie marry Ali Hakim, the peddler who has been pursuing her. Ali Hakim is not interested in marriage.
Curly visits Jud and tries to discourage him, but the rivalry intensifies. Laurey believing in the “Elixir of Egypt” bought from the peddler, sniffs it and has a dream that helps her make up her mind.
At the Box Lunch Social, while farm people and cattle folk socialize, Ali Hakim goes to great lengths to ensure that Will is once more worth fifty dollars. Jud and Curly engage in a bidding war in the auction for Laurey’s lunch basket (and her company at lunch) and Curly proves his love by selling everything he owns to win.
Later, at the dance, Laurey spurns Jud’s advances, which provokes a confrontation that results in Jud’s dismissal and banishment from her ranch. She and Curly admit their love and they agree to marry.
Ado Annie and Will, with Ali Hakim out of the picture, reconcile and promise to be true to each other.
Laurey and Curly marry, and during the shivaree that follows, Jud returns and provokes a fight. In the scuffle, he is killed with his own knife. Curly is tried on the spot, pleads self-defence, and is acquitted.