McAlester school production of Oklahoma! set for this week

·3 min read

Mar. 29—Wyatt Freeman hopes people come sweeping down the plains to see a McAlester school production of Oklahoma!

Freeman, McAlester High School Director of Competitive Speech, Drama, and Mock Trial, said the school performance of Oklahoma! this week will be familiar to most — but it's a story relatable to all ages.

"It's a great script for kids to do because they can still relate to these characters and of course there are adults characters too," Freeman said. "So I think it's a relatable story for kids and adults alike. I think that it tells a very interesting American story and it's something that we can all take pride in."

Oklahoma! was the first musical written by musical duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, who went on create a series of influential Broadway productions like "The Sound of Music" and "The King and I."

They earned 34 Tony Awards, 15 Academy Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes — including a special Pulitzer for Oklahoma! in 1944.

Freeman likened Oklahoma! to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, the smash-hit American musical that won multiple Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize since it premiered Off-Broadway in 2015.

"It was back then what Hamilton is today," Freeman said. "It was really the first true musical in terms of what we think of musicals today so that's significant."

Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for 2,212 performances before it had award-winning revivals, national tours and led to a movie adaptation that won Academy Awards in 1955 for musical score and sound recording.

A revival of the musical adapted for the 21st century directed by Daniel Fish in touring American and won a Tony Award for best revival of a musical.

Oklahoma! is based on the 1931 production Green Grow the Lilacs after Theatre Guild producer Theresa Helburn decided to readapt it into a musical a decade later.

The musical is set near Claremore in 1906 and depicts farm girl Laurey Williams in a courtship with rival suitors Curly McLain and Jud Fry.

Freeman said he believes the musical provided audience members a sense of relief during troubling times worldwide. He said that is partly why he chose the play for the school's latest production.

"I think that we find ourselves in a very similar time today because of COVID and now with the war in Ukraine and the heavy political division over the last few years," Freeman said. "I think that people are really kind of desperate for a story that shows people coming together and that's what this story's about.

"It's about a group of everyday American farmers who have to put aside their differences and come together to support a young couple in love," he added.

Freeman said he hopes for a good turnout so the students can feel supported and appreciated, but also to help support the program moving forward.

He said the program is hoping for at least 800 ticket sales in order to help fund future shows.

An orchestra of about 20 students and volunteers will accompany the production under the direction of MHS Fine Arts Director David Steidley. Freeman thanked all the students for their hard work and all the volunteers for their contributions in making the production possible.

"It's a whole community coming together to make a piece of art," Freeman said.

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com