The Rodgers and Hammerstein production of Oklahoma! is still one of the things most non-Okies associate with the state. It has no doubt made people think the state’s residents are liable to break into song at any moment and have colorful hoop skirts and overalls in their closets at all times.
A new production of Oklahoma! by experimental director Daniel Fish making its Broadway debut in 2019 vows to do for Oklahoma! what Christopher Nolan did for the Batman franchise by infusing a campy concept with gritty realism. (Remember the ice dancing and bat nipples of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin in 1997?)
Fish’s interpretation made its debut at Bard College in 2015 as the cast prepared chili and cornbread during the opening act and shared it with the audience on long wooden tables.
The production went to Off Broadway this fall and attracted celebrities like Frances McDormand and Stephen Sondheim to early stagings, and while the Fish version features a new ending and video interludes that might seem antithetical to the Broadway aesthetic, it comes at a time when classic revivals are gaining steam. South Pacific and The King and I have earned Tony Awards in recent years for their new interpretations.
The new Oklahoma! takes the score written for an orchestra and condenses it into a more concise arrangement, with a small band on stage that features pedal steel guitar and banjo performing “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “I Cain’t Say No.”
The “not your mother’s Oklahoma!” will begin previews in March before opening April 7 at Circle in the Square, which is Broadway’s only theater-in-the-round, according to The New York Times.
This version of Oklahoma! featuring a diverse cast, gritty realism and contemporary choreography is sure to more accurately depict Oklahoma than the original did.