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Anniversary production of Oklahoma! celebrates golden age of musical theatre

Laurey (Hayley Currie, left) and Curly (Liam Gobbert) find the road to true love never runs smooth in Oklahoma! Picture:A 20-year anniversary production of the famed Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! comes to Roleystone Theatre this May.

Last staged at the theatre in 1997, directors Paul Treasure and Bree Hartley are bringing it to life again with a new cast, celebrating the groundbreaking musical that ushered in the golden age of musical theatre.

Oklahoma! is based on the 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs and was the first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, who also had later success with Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music.

Set in Native American Territory in 1906, the high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys provides a colourful background as handsome cowboy Curly McLain engages in romance with farm girl Laurey Williams.

But the road to true love never runs smooth, especially with two headstrong romantics holding the reins – can they make a new life together in the new state of Oklahoma?

The original 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation.

Rodgers and Hammerstein also won a special Pulitzer Prize for the musical in 1944.

Hartley, who is also the show’s musical director, said Oklahoma! was her first theatre production two decades ago.

“It sparked an enduring love and commitment to Roleystone Theatre that has endured throughout the years,” she said. “The memories of that production 20 years ago are bright and beautiful even now.

“The wonderful people I met really made it for me, many of whom are no longer with us, and it was the best group I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

“I was blessed to have such a fantastic first show – it lit a fire in me that has never been extinguished!”

Director Paul Treasure confessed he loved the golden age of Broadway.

“The golden age is described as starting with Oklahoma! and ending with Fiddler on the Roof so it’s great to go and see where it all started from,” he said.

“I think there’s a reason some of these shows have lasted as long as they have and continue to be so popular.

“I’ve had the chance to direct a couple of golden age musicals before, including The Sound of Music, and there is something about the way Rodgers and Hammerstein write that still makes their shows vibrant and attractive.

“So when the idea of directing Oklahoma! came about, I jumped at it.”

Hartley said the main challenge was keeping the show relevant and entertaining for a modern audience.

“Even in the 20 years since the last production at our theatre, society has changed so much,” she said.

“The challenge will be to craft a show that pays tribute to the golden age of musicals while being fresh and funny for all audience members.”

Treasure added: “Like any good show there are many, many layers to it and it can be done and interpreted a number of different ways.

“Co-directing is fun and interesting – it gives you a back-up and another ear, so you don't just lose your head.

“Theatre is, at its heart, all about collaboration, so it’s refreshing to be able to make these collaborative decisions at such a high level in the team.”

Oklahoma! plays at 8pm May 5, 6, 10, 12, 13, 17, 19 and 20 with 2pm matinees May 14 and 20. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book on 9490 9306 or at www.roleystonetheatre.com.au.   

Roleystone Theatre is located at 587 Brookton Highway, Roleystone, opposite the Croyden Road junction.

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