Skip to main content

Full text of "Oklahoma!"

See other formats

MONO-OL 8010 

A Brilliant New Recording o / Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Greatest Hit 



Jlra Rerberian 




Jack Eiliott 

New Orchestrations 
by Philip J. Lang 

Orchestra & Chorus 
under direction 



Stereo—OS 2610 


",360 SOUND" 

A Brilliant New Recording ol Rodgers & Hammer stei n's Greates t Hit 




Jack Elliott Ara Berberian 






New Orchestrations 
by Philip J. Lang 
Orchestra & Chorus 
under direction ol 



Mono—OL 8010 

Produced by 
Thomas Z. Shepard 

Not long after Oklahoma! opened in 1943, a six-year-old girl was 
taken to a matinee of the), show. Completely enchanted, she could 
hardly wait to see it again—and that was arranged for early in 
1944. Asked how she liked the show the second time, the youngster 
said, “Even better than last year. I want to go every year from now 
on!" Her enchantment seems to reflect that of practically everyone 
who sees Oklahoma! On the first visit you somehow fall in love 
with the disarming youth and exuberance of the characters and 
the story—the earthy, heart-warming lyrics—the lilt and beauty of 
the music. Then, as the years pass, and you continue to hear 
those wonderful songs, they become more and more a part of 
you. Like good friends, they are not only endearing, but enduring. 

All of which makes it awfully difficult to realize today that for 
a while Oklahoma! nearly didn't materialize at all. Back in the 
early 1940s, the Theatre Guild, following several unsuccessful sea¬ 
sons, decided to try its luck on a musical production. In 1931 the 
Guild had produced Lynn Riggs' play, Green Grow the Lilacs, and 
while it ran only eight weeks, it was highly regarded. To Theresa 
Helburn (one of the Guild’s executive directors) the play seemed 
to have great possibilities as a full-fledged musical. Remembering 
the Guild's happy experience with the Garrick Gaieties of 1925 
and 1926, for whifh Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart had written 
the sparkling songs, Miss Helburn suggested to Rodgers in 1942 
that the team undertake the assignment she had in mind. The 
prospect appealed to Rodgers immediately; this would be a de¬ 
parture from the sophistication which had characterized all the 
recent Rodgers and Hart shows—and to this day Rodgers relishes 
striking out in new directions. Lorenz Hart, not in the best of 
health, was unreceptive to the idea of working on Green Grow 
the Lilacs —nor, indeed, to working on any other show for the time 
being. However, in view of Rodgers' enthusiasm for the idea, Hart 
encouraged his partner to find another collaborator. 

For many years Rodgers had been friendly with Oscar Hammer- 
stein II—they had, indeed, once collaborated on a song for the 
1920 Columbia varsity show. Like the Theatre Guild, Hammerstein 
had had a lean period through most of the 1930s, and he was more 
than delighted when Rodgers approached him with the suggestion 
that they collaborate once more. By sheer coincidence, in fact, 
Hammerstein had also been considering the idea of turning Green 
Grow the Lilacs into a musical. So impressed was he with its 
possibilities, that he had already brought it to the attention of 
Jerome Kern. But Kern didn’t care for the idea much more than 
Larry Hart had. And so, to these two eminent gentlemen our 
warmest gratitude—for their indifference was a highly important 
factor in bringing about the most memorable partnership in the 
American musical theater. Right from the start, the collaboration 
of Rodgers and Hammerstein was an ideal one; because they saw 
eye to eye, the problems of translating the play into musical terms 
were relatively simple ones for two men so highly experienced in 
the field. What turned out to be much more of a headache was the 
matter of raising money. With the exception of Rodgers, most 
of the people connected with the production were either com¬ 
paratively unknown at that time—or in the case of Hammerstein 
and the Theatre Guild, had been recently unsuccessful. Potential 
investors shied away from the unlikely idea of a musical about 
cowboys in which there was no line of chorus girls for the first 
forty minutes. As one of the Theatre Guild's own press agents 
moaned, "It opened with a middle-aged farm woman sitting on a 
bare stage churning butter, and from then on it got cleaner.” But 
Rodgers and Hammerstein had unlimited faith, and personally gave 
countless backers' auditions, together with Alfred Drake and Joan 
Roberts who eventually played the original leads on Broadway. 
Finally the necessary $80,000 was raised, and the show, known 
then as Away We Go!, had its world premidre in New Haven on 
March 11, 1943, to modest appraisal. (Other titles considered, inci¬ 
dentally, were Swing Your Lady, Cherokee Strip, and Yessirree.) 
By the time Away We Go! arrived in Boston, a considerable and 
effective job of rewriting had been done. Among the changes was 
an expansion of the song Oklahoma into a full-fledged choral 
number; this was such a showstopper that it was decided to 
give that title to the show itself, with the addition of an exclama¬ 
tion point. 

The reports reaching New York from Boston were better than 
they had been from New Haven, but not good enough to result in 
a sold-out house for the Broadway opening at the St. James 

Theatre on March 31st. Agnes De Mille, the choreographer, re¬ 
lates that she had bought ten front-row balcony seats for the 
premiere, and wasn’t able to give all of them away! But the audi¬ 
ence reaction that night was better than anyone had dared dream. 
Describing the intermission, Hammerstein said “the glow was 
like the light from a thousand lanterns. You could feel the glow, 
it was that bright.” There were raves from all papers and maga¬ 
zines, and tickets became next to impossible to get. Six months 
after the New York opening, when a national touring company was 
formed, the part of Curly was played by John Raitt, who is also the 
Curly in this Columbia Records re-creation of the score. Many more 
companies were formed in time, and perhaps the most delightful 
Laurey in any of them was Florence Henderson, who sings the 
part in this new recording. Oklahoma! was subsequently and 
rapturously received in most parts of the world—England, France, 
Germany, Italy, the Scandinavian countries, Australia, South 
Africa, and the Philippines. Several years ago, during a single 
week, there were actually 41 productions in various far-flung 

The story of Oklahoma!, in its simplest outline, concerns the 
courtship of Laurey Williams by two rivals—a wholesome, attrac¬ 
tive cowboy named Curly McLain, and a sinister, unattractive 
farmhand named Jud Fry. The matter of which of them will escort 
Laurey to a box social is her dilemma and their problem. A second 
rivalry is that between Will Parker, a cowboy friend of Curly's, 
and AM Hakim, a traveling Persian peddler, for the hand of the 
flirtatious Ado Annie Carnes. Most of the action occurs on Laurey’s 
farm in what was then (the early 1900s) known as Indian Territory. 
Listening to the songs and reading the descriptions of them will 
indicate the development of the plot as it moves along. 


In the eloquent preface to his book, Lyrics**, Hammerstein wrote: 
“We had agreed that we should start the play outside a farm¬ 
house. The only character on the stage would be a middle-aged 
woman sitting at a butter churn. The voice of Curly, a cowboy, 
would be heard offstage, singing. Searching for a subject for 
Curly to sing about, I recalled how deeply I had been impressed 
by Lynn Riggs’ description at the start of his play. 

‘It is a radiant summer morning several years ago, the Kind 
of morning which, enveloping the shapes of earth—men, cattle 
in the meadow, blades of the young corn, streams—makes 
them seem to exist now for the first time, their images giving 
off a visible golden emanation that is partly true and partly a 
trick of imagination, focusing to keep alive a loveliness that 
may pass away.’ 

“On first reading these words, I had thought what a pity it was 
to waste them on stage directions. Only readers could enjoy 
them. An audience would never hear them. Yet, if they did, how 
quickly they would slip into the mood of the story. Remembering 
this reaction, I reread the description and determined to put it 
into song. Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ opens the play and cre¬ 
ates an atmosphere of relaxation and peace and tenderness." 

The words Hammerstein wrote elicited this reaction from his 
collaborator: “The very first lyric that Oscar finished was Oh, What 
a Beautiful Mornin’, and when he handed it to me and I read it for 
the first time, I was a little sick with joy because it was so lovely 
and so right." 


(John Raitt, Florence Henderson, Irene Carroll) 

In trying to persuade Laurey to accompany him to the box social, 
Curly describes melodically the mode of transportation he has in 
mind. Laurey’s Aunt Eller, most intrigued by it all, joins in the 
second verse, as does even the reluctant Laurey. The rollicking 
mood of the first two verses and choruses gives way to a little 
lazier tempo in a third chorus, as Curly describes their “ridin’ 
slowly home in the surrey with the fringe on top." Hammerstein 
himself was particularly fond of this song, and loved to recite 
the words. 

KANSAS CITY (Jack Elliott, Men’s Chorus) 

Will Parker, one of Ado Annie's suitors, arrives home from Kansas 
City, having won fifty dollars in a steer-roping contest. Since Ado 
Annie’s father has told Will he could have his daughter if he was 
ever worth fifty dollars, Will is highly elated, and bursts into song, 
relating the glories of the Big Town. 

I CAIN’T SAY NO (Phyllis Newman) 

Ado Annie, surprised at Will’s premature return, had promised the 
Persian peddler, AM Hakim, to go to the box social with him. 
Asked whether she doesn’t love Will, she says sure, she loves 
him too—she loves whatever man she’s with, and explains her 
terrible predicament in this winsome song. 

MANY A NEW DAY (Florence Henderson, Women's Chorus) 
Since Laurey has decided to go to the box social with Jud, Curly 
gives up and starts courting another girl. Laurey, putting on an 
extraordinarily good act, proclaims that she doesn't care. 
(John Raitt, Florence Henderson) 

Curly is still not convinced that Laurey really prefers to go to the 
party with Jud. Everyone expects him to take her, he says. Laurey 
continues to give Curly a bad time, saying that it's just as well 
he's not taking her, or people might start "suspecting things.” 

PORE JUD (John Raitt, Ara Berberian) 

Still unsuccessful in persuading Laurey to change her mind—even 
after that duet—Curly decides to visit Jud in his squalid smoke¬ 
house quarters. To quote once again from Hammerstein's 
preface to his volume of Lyrics**: “In Pore Jud, Curly, after sug¬ 
gesting how easy it would be for Jud to hang himself by a lasso 
from a rafter, goes on to describe what his funeral would be like. 
Unwelcome as the idea seems at first, Jud finds some features not 
unattractive to speculate on—the excitement he would cause by 
the gesture of suicide, the people who would come from miles 

around to weep and moan_" 

LONELY ROOM (Ara Berberian) 

As Curly leaves the smokehouse, Jud for the first time fears that 
perhaps his rival now has the upper hand. Furious at Curly, and 
craving more than ever for Laurey, he sings this soliloquy—at 
once self-pitying and savage. Incidentally, when Lynn Riggs at¬ 
tended a rehearsal of Oklahoma! for the first time, Hammerstein 
asked him if he approved of this number. Riggs replied “I certainly 
do. It will scare hell out of the audience." 

OUT OF MY DREAMS (Florence Henderson, Women’s Chorus) 
Richard Rodgers wrote two of his most ingratiating waltzes for 
Oklahoma! One is Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, and the other 
is this beauty, which is sung to Laurey by a group of her friends, 
seated under a tree near a clearing in the forest. As they leave, 
Laurey drifts into a reverie, singing softly. .. 

THE FARMER AND THE COWMAN (Leonard Stokes, Ensemble) 
As the second act opens, the box social is in full progress. Every¬ 
one is having a great time indulging in a lusty, old-fashioned coun¬ 
try song and dance. There are occasional outbursts from various 
members of the party, but on the whole the mood is a very festive 

ALL ER NOTHIN’ (Phyllis Newman, Jack Elliott) 

Now that Will Parker is worth a full fifty dollars, he delivers an 
ultimatum to Ado Annie: no more nonsense, no more fooling 
around with other fellows. She promises him to try, but... 
OKLAHOMA (John Raitt, Florence Henderson, Ensemble) 

The wedding day for Laurey and Curly has finally rolled around. 
All their many good friends are gathered in the backyard of 
Laurey's house, wishing them well, and predicting a rosy future 
for the newlyweds, who will “soon be livin' in a brand-new state! 
The curtain lowers, and as it rises again, everyone breaks into 
the strains of that radiant song which opened the show— Oh, 
What a Beautiful Mornin’. 


•The New York run of Oklahoma! still holds the record for any Rodgers and 
Hammerstein show—five years and nine weeks. . 

••From ' Lyrics,” copyright 1949 by Oscar Hammerstein II, by permission of Simon & 
Schuster Inc., New York. 


John Raitt .Curly 

Florence Henderson .Laurey 

Irene Carroll .Aunt Eller 

Jack Elliott .Will Parker 

Phyllis Newman .Ado Annie Carnes 

Ara Berberian .Jud Fry 

Leonard Stokes .Andrew Carnes