Is “Oklahoma” OK? Re-orchestrating a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical for today

Posted on: July 16, 2019

“How do you make a classic song sound—and feel—totally different without changing its melody, harmony or a single word of its lyrics?,” writes Jesse Green in Wednesday’s (7/10) New York Times. “The 1943 Broadway hit ‘Oklahoma!’ was a game-changer in many ways, including its unglamorized depiction of the American frontier and the violent death of a major character in the second act…. But one thing the composer Richard Rodgers and the librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, in their first collaboration, kept fairly traditional was the sound of the leading couple’s first duet … [which] had the contours of old-fashioned operetta.… Operetta was not what the director Daniel Fish had in mind when he conceptualized a revival of the musical that would expose its underlying danger and violence…. Something earthier and more immediately accessible was needed to match Mr. Fish’s interpretation.… Enter the production’s orchestrator and music supervisor, Daniel Kluger. He and the music director, Nathan Koci, along with a group of instrumentalists … sought to build a totally new sound world on the sturdy armature of Rodgers’s music.” The article includes audio clips comparing the 1943 and current Broadway productions as well as the 1955 film.

Posted July 16, 2019