Book: Oscar Hammerstein II
Music: Richard Rodgers
Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II
Oklahoma! is the first musical written by composer Richard Rodgers and
librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931
play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of
Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance
with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns flirtatious
Ado Annie and her long-suffering fiancé Will Parker.
In Oklahoma territory in 1906, cowboy Curly McLain looks forward to the
beautiful day ahead as he wanders into farmgirl Laurey Williams's yard
("Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"). He and Laurey tease each other, while
Laurey's Aunt Eller looks on. There will be a box social dance that night,
which includes an auction of lunch baskets prepared by the local girls (to
raise funds for a schoolhouse). The man who wins each lunch basket will
eat the lunch with the girl who prepared it.
Curly asks Laurey to go with him, but she refuses. He attempts to persuade
her by telling her that he will take her in the finest carriage money can buy,
"The Surrey With The Fringe On Top", but she teases him about it until he
says he made it up to get back at her, and Laurey flounces off, not realizing
that Curly really has rented such a rig.
The sinister and dark-hearted farm hand Jud Fry has set his sights on Laurey
and asks her to the dance. She accepts to spite Curly, despite being afraid of
Jud. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker returns bedazzled and souvenir-laden from
a trip to modern "Kansas City". He won $50 at the fair, which, according to his
girlfriend Ado Annie's father, is the money he needs to marry Ado Annie.
Unfortunately, he spent all the money on gifts for her. Ado Annie confesses to
Laurey that while he's been away, she has been spending a lot of time with Ali
Hakim, a Persian peddler. Laurey tells her she'll have to choose between them,
but Ado Annie insists she loves them both ("I Cain't Say No").
Laurey and her friends prepare for the social, while Gertie flirts with Curly
(her obnoxious laugh floating in to taunt Laurey). "Many a New Day" is
Laurey's response to her friend's worry that she's overcome by Curly and
Gertie's flirtation; her vain attempt to assure them she doesn't really care
Ado Annie's father, Andrew Carnes, discovers her with Ali Hakim. After
questioning Ado Annie about her relationship with the peddler, he forces
Hakim at gunpoint to agree to marry Ado Annie. Hakim and the other men
conclude that "It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!" Curly discovers that Laurey
is going to the box social with Jud and tries to convince her to go with him
instead. Afraid to tell Jud she won't go with him, Laurey playfully warns
Curly off ("People Will Say We're In Love").
Hurt by her refusal, Curly goes to the smokehouse where Jud lives, and Curly
suggests that since Jud does not feel appreciated, he could hang himself and
everyone would realize how much they care about him ("Pore Jud is Daid"). Their
talk turns into an ominous confrontation, punctuated by alarming but harmless
gunplay. Once Curly departs, Jud's resolve to win Laurey becomes even stronger
- he is tired of being on his own in his "Lonely Room".
Confused by her feelings for Curly and her fear of Jud, Laurey purchases a
"magic potion" (really a bottle of smelling salts with some laudanum) from Ali
Hakim, which the unscrupulous peddler guarantees will reveal her true love. She
muses on leaving her dreams of love behind and joining the man she loves ("Out
of My Dreams"), then falls asleep under the influence of the laudanum ("Dream
Sequence"). An extended ballet sequence follows. Laurey first dreams of what
marriage to Curly would be like. Her dream takes a nightmarish turn when Jud
kills Curly, and she cannot escape him, confused by her desires. The dream
makes her realize that Curly is the right man for her, but it is too late to change
her mind about going to the dance with Jud; he has come for her, and they leave
for the box social.
At the social, the menfolk join in an upbeat barn dance. A rivalry between the
local farmers and cowboys over fences and water rights has led to tension. Both
sides state the merits of their way of life, while Aunt Eller tries - and eventually
succeeds - in getting them to make peace ("The Farmer and the Cowman").
Laurey is upset when she sees Curly at the dance with Gertie Cummings, a silly
girl with an obnoxious laugh.
The auction starts out frivolously but becomes much more serious when Laurey's
basket comes up for auction. Jud has saved all his money for months so he can
win Laurey's basket. Curly is so determined to outbid Jud that he sells his
prized possessions: his saddle, his horse, and even his gun; without these,
Curly can no longer be a cowboy and will have to become a farmer. Curly outbids
Jud and wins the basket.
Will bids $50 on Ado Annie's basket in hopes of getting her for a wife, but
without the $50, he would no longer have the money her father insisted he
needs to "purchase" marriage with Ado Annie. Desperate to be rid of Ado Annie,
the peddler bids $51 and gets the basket so that Will can approach Andrew
Carnes with his $50 and claim Ado Annie as his bride. Later that night, Will and
Annie work out their differences ("All Er Nuthin'").
Jud confronts Laurey about his feelings for her. When she admits that she
doesn't return them, he threatens her. She then fires him as her farm hand,
screaming at him to get off her property. Jud furiously threatens Laurey before
he departs. Laurey bursts into tears and calls for Curly. She tells him that she
has fired Jud and is frightened by what Jud might do now. Curly, seeing that she
has turned to him for guidance and safety, reassures her and proposes to her,
and she accepts ("People Will Say We're In Love" (Reprise)).
Three weeks later, a drunken Jud reappears after Curly and Laurey's wedding.
He attacks Curly with a knife. As Curly dodges a blow, Jud falls on his own
knife and dies on the spot.
At Aunt Eller's urging, the wedding guests hold a makeshift trial for Curly.
The judge, Ado Annie's father, declares the verdict: "Not Guilty!" and everyone
rejoices ("Oklahoma!") in celebration of the territory's impending statehood.
After more rejoicing, Curly and Laurey depart on their honeymoon in the surrey
with the fringe on top.