Oklahoma! opened in 1943 during the middle of World War II. It was an ambitious experiment in integrating music and dance in the service of storytelling rather than spectacle. When I first approached this piece, I was fascinated by the period in which it was written. Americans learned to live among the fear and many contributed to the war effort but escapism became a coping mechanism. There was a sense of investment in the future, of generations, land and country. The American identity shifted and a new sense of patriotism emerged. The war created conflict and fear that was part of everyone’s daily routines. Not one member of the audience who participated in this new musical theatre event was unaffected by the war during this period. The need to participate in the war efforts was at its height at the time Oklahoma! opened on Broadway, and in response, various organizations joined in and mobilized to support the troops under the umbrella of the “United Service Organizations” (U.S.O.) established by FDR. This context – the national war effort combined with the need for forms of escape from the terrors of war - inform and define this production of Oklahoma!.

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