Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Oklahoma!" Kicks off Post-WWII Season

The first post-World War II theatre season in New England got off to a rousing start with what had been a wartime favorite in New York, “Oklahoma!”

This first celebrated pairing of the music and lyrics of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II opened at Hartford’s Bushnell Memorial Hall October 15, 1945, and played for a week. This road company featured James Alexander as Curly, Mary Hatcher as Laurey, former vaudevillian Mary Marlo as Aunt Eller, and Dorothea MacFarland as Ado Annie (who had understudied Celeste Holm in the New York production). Richard H. Gordon played Jud Fry.

While wartime privations continued in Great Britain, and the European continent and Asia would take years to recover from the war’s devastation, Americans were seemingly already shedding the horror of the world’s largest and most terrible conflict, and were moving on to an unknown modern world with a vengeance. An ad in the program for new perfume sold at Hartford’s famed department store, G. Fox & Co. (see more on G. Fox & Co. in my New England Travels blog), called “Yanky Clover” sold with a dress inspired by “Oklahoma!” and its depiction of “box luncheons, picnics under the stars…the romantic, nostalgic feeling of our own wonderful West.” See Toiletries, street floor.

That romantic nostalgic feeling might be fleeting when the new realities of post-war life set in, some exciting, some foreboding. For now, it was “Oklahoma!” in Hartford, where the cheap seats in the second balcony went for 90 cents, and most expensive orchestra seats would cost you $3.00.

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