The "Oklahoma" revival now on Broadway gives a darker, stripped down interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical.
New York Times theater critic Jesse Green in Sunday's Times analyzes how the new production changed "People Will Say We're in Love" from an operatta confection to sultry country-influenced love song.
In the new show, Curly strums a guitar as he serenades Laurie, shifting from the light-opera style made famous through the years by such stars as Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones and Hugh Jackman and Josefina Gabrielle.
Portraying Curly, Damon Daunno at one haunting moment in the new rendering breaks into a Hank Williams-reminiscent yodel. As Laurie, Rebecca Naomi Jones shimmers close to Daunno in a sultry, seductive dance, a radical shift from the coy and mocking performances of Jones and Gabrielle.
Without bogging down in technicalities, Green analyzes how the revival directed by Daniel Fish changed the song's flavor. Music director Nathan Koci replaced the traditional theater pit orchestra with an on-stage ensemble that plays country string instruments.
In a treat for those with some understanding of musical theory, Green analyzes how Koci changed the song's key and voice styling. With all of the changes, one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most beautiful songs keeps its essence.
The Broadway revival has resulted in a new cast recording. A separate Times article traces the history of "Oklahoma" cast recordings. The first was Decca Records' pioneering effort in 1943, recorded on multiple 78s.
I'm looking forward to hearing the revival cast's new interpretations of standards like "Surrey With the Fringe on The Top" and the sweeping theme "Oklahoma."
After years as one of those Rodgers and Hart acolytes, I gained new appreciation for Hammerstein's collaboration with Rodgers by hearing Blossom Dearie's jazzy and seductive recording of "Surrey With the Fringe on the Top."
Koci's new arrangements of "Oklahoma" songs will open the music to new artistic interpretations. A country or pop duo will surely follow Koci's path and record "People Will Say We're in Love."