Saturday Open Thread

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the team of 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 cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie, a friend of Laurey’s.

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,243 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.[1]

This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier Show Boat, epitomized the development of the “book musical”, a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that are able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter.[2] In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story.[3][page needed][4] A fifteen-minute “dream ballet” reflected Laurey’s struggle to choose between two men. A special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma! in the category of “Special Awards And Citations – Letters” in 1944.[5]


BackgroundBy the early 1940s, Rodgers and Hammerstein were each well known for creating Broadway hits with other collaborators. Rodgers, with Lorenz Hart, had produced over two dozen musicals since the 1920s, including such popular successes as Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys from Syracuse (1938) and Pal Joey (1940).[6] Among other successes, Hammerstein had written the words for Rose-Marie (1924), The Desert Song (1926), The New Moon (1927) and Show Boat (1927). Though less productive in the 1930s, he wrote musicals, songs and films, sharing an Academy Award for his song with Jerome Kern, “The Last Time I Saw Paris”, which was included in the 1941 film Lady Be Good.[7] By the early 1940s, Hart had sunk into alcoholism and emotional turmoil, and he became unreliable, prompting Rodgers to approach Hammerstein to ask if he would consider working with him.[8]

In 1931, the Theatre Guild produced Lynn Riggs’s Green Grow the Lilacs, a play about settlers in Oklahoma’s Indian Territory. Though the play was not successful, ten years later in 1941, Theresa Helburn, one of the Guild’s producers, saw a summer-stock production supplemented with traditional folk songs and square dances and decided the play could be the basis of a musical that might revive the struggling Guild. She contacted Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, whose first successful collaboration, The Garrick Gaieties, had been produced by the Theatre Guild in 1925. Rodgers wanted to work on the project and obtained the rights for himself and Hart. Rodgers had asked Oscar Hammerstein II to collaborate with him and Hart. During the tryouts of Rodgers and Hart’s Best Foot Forward in 1941, Hammerstein had assured Rodgers that if Hart was ever unable to work, he would be willing to take his place.[9] Coincidentally in 1942, Hammerstein had thought of musicalizing Green Grow the Lilacs, but when he had approached Jerome Kern about it, the latter declined. Hammerstein found out that Rodgers was seeking someone to write the book, and he eagerly took the opportunity. Hart lost interest in the musical; he preferred contemporary, urbane shows that would showcase his witty lyric-writing, and he found the farmers and cowhands in Green Grow the Lilacs corny and uninspiring. Moreover, spiraling downward, consumed by his longstanding alcoholism, Hart no longer felt like writing. He embarked on a vacation to Mexico, advising Rodgers that Hammerstein would be a good choice of a new collaborator.[10][11]

This partnership allowed both Rodgers and Hammerstein to follow their preferred writing methods: Hammerstein preferred to write a complete lyric before it was set to music, and Rodgers preferred to set completed lyrics to music. In Rodgers’s previous collaborations with Hart, Rodgers had always written the music first, since the unfocused Hart needed something on which to base his lyrics. Hammerstein’s previous collaborators included composers Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart, Vincent Youmans, and Kern, who all wrote music first, for which Hammerstein then wrote lyrics. The role reversal in the Rodgers and Hammerstein partnership permitted Hammerstein to craft the lyrics into a fundamental part of the story so that the songs could amplify and intensify the story instead of diverting it.[9] As Rodgers and Hammerstein began developing the new musical, they agreed that their musical and dramatic choices would be dictated by the source material, Green Grow the Lilacs, not by musical comedy conventions.[10] Musicals of that era featured big production numbers, novelty acts, and show-stopping specialty dances; the libretti typically focused on humor, with little dramatic development, punctuated with songs that effectively halted the story for their duration.[12]

Between the world wars, roles in musicals were usually filled by actors who could sing, but Rodgers and Hammerstein chose the reverse, casting singers who could act. Though Theresa Helburn, codirector of the Theatre Guild, suggested Shirley Temple as Laurey and Groucho Marx as Ali Hakim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, with director Rouben Mammoulian’s support, insisted that performers more dramatically appropriate for the roles be cast. As a result of this decision, there were no stars in the production, another unusual step.[9] The production was choreographed by Agnes de Mille (her first time choreographing a musical on Broadway), who provided one of the show’s most notable and enduring features: a 15-minute first-act ballet finale (often referred to as the dream ballet) depicting Laurey’s struggle to evaluate her suitors, Jud and Curly.[12]

The first title given to the work was Away We Go! which opened for out-of-town-tryouts in New Haven’s Shubert Theatre on March 11, 1943.[13] Expectations for the show were low; Hammerstein had written six flops in a row, and the show had no star power. Producer Mike Todd walked out after the first act during the tryout and wisecracked “No legs, no jokes, no chance.”[11] But Rodgers and Hammerstein were confident. The New Haven audiences and then Boston critics were enthusiastic. Only a few changes were made before it opened on Broadway, but two would prove significant: the addition of the show-stopping musical number, Oklahoma! and the decision to retitle the musical after that number.

Todd had been wrong, the show opened to raves from the critics, sold out and won a special Pulitzer Prize. Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times that the show’s opening number, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” changed the history of musical theater: “After a verse like that, sung to a buoyant melody, the banalities of the old musical stage became intolerable.”[11] The New York Post was the only major paper to give Oklahoma! a mixed review. Its critic felt that while the songs were pleasant enough, they sounded much alike.[14] The show’s creativity stimulated Rodgers and Hammerstein’s contemporaries and ushered in the “Golden Age” of American musical theatre.[11]

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15 Responses to Saturday Open Thread

  1. rikyrah says:

    Barbara Graves, wife of prominent publisher Earl Graves, dies

    By The Admin on May 26, 2012

    Barbara Kydd Graves, the wife of the publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine who aided in the growth of the publication and media company, died Friday.

    Black Enterprise said in a statement that Graves had been fighting gall-bladder cancer for more than three years when she died at Howard University Hospital in Washington. She was 74.

    Graves, the wife of Black Enterprise founder and publisher Earl G. Graves Sr., was involved in the magazine from its start in 1970. She held a number of positions with the company including chief financial officer and circulation director.

    In 2010, in a magazine column commemorating the publication’s 40th anniversary, Earl Graves wrote that in the early days his wife “did just about everything there is to do” to put out a magazine. She wrote and edited, designed layouts, served as the sales director and office manager and “was vice president in charge of shutting down the publisher’s bad ideas,” Graves said.

    The monthly magazine now has a circulation of 500,000 in the United States and a readership of 4 million according to Black Enterprise.

    Barbara Graves, an elementary school teacher and graduate of Brooklyn College, met her husband on a blind date while he was in the Army.

    “She was very attractive, very bright, and not impressed at all by my, you know, Army outfit on,” Earl Graves said in a 2006 interview with civil rights leader Julian Bond that was done for The HistoryMakers, a video archive of African American oral histories.

    Barbara Graves is survived by her husband and their three children. The eldest son, Earl Graves Jr., is now the president and CEO of Black Enterprise. The other two sons, Johnny Graves and Michael Graves, have also worked as executives at Black Enterprise.

    Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced. (AP)

  2. rikyrah says:

    May 26, 2012 9:18 AM
    The Wisconsin Recall and the Presidential Race

    By Adele Stan
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    You may have thought it would never end, but a week from next Tuesday, the recall campaign against the Koch-bought Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, will end when Wisconsinites head to the polls for a vote that could end Walker’s tenure before his term is up. The revolt against Walker began with the the February uprising against a so-called “budget repair” bill that the governor pushed through the state legislature using strong-arm tactics, a law that largely revoked the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

    For months, Democratic leaders at the national level have hemmed and hawed about the wisdom of getting involved, in a presidential election year, in a recall effort that could fail. The state is quite evenly divided between the Tea Party-style Republicans who now control the legislature, and the Democrats who oppose them, and it’s in play in the contest between President Barack Obama and his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney.

    Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week noted the president’s absence in the recall fight, and, only last week, Wisconsin Democrats were begging the Democratic National Committee for help, to no avail. But now, writes Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post, the Democrats’ internal polling is showing that Walker’s Democratic challenger, former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, could actually win this thing:

    The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race is now a dead heat as voters have learned more about the corruption probe surrounding Gov. Scott Walker (R), according to a new internal poll for the campaign of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D).

    In a survey of 935 likely recall voters, conducted by the Garin Hart Yang Research Group from May 22 to 24, Walker led Barrett by 49.89 to 48.62 percent. With the poll’s margin of error at plus or minus 3.3 percent, that means the race is essentially tied.

    Perhaps those numbers have something to do with why, at long last, this week the DNC sent out a nationally distributed fundraising letter on Walker’s Barrett’s behalf.

    Although last night’s gubernatorial debate between Walker and Barrett featured some sharp exchanges, it’s worth noting, as the Washington Post’s Dan Balz did, that Walker did concede that the tactics he used in ramming through his anti-labor law may not have been, well, the smartest:

    Though Walker offered no apologies for the reforms he pushed through, which led to huge protests on the state Capitol grounds and a walkout among Democratic legislators, the governor acknowledged anew that he regretted the way he had gone about making the changes.

    “Looking back, without a doubt I’d change how we did things,” he said. He added that Wisconsin voters “like the results but they just wish we’d done it differently.”

    And, in case you missed it, Walker isn’t the only Wisconsin Republican facing a recall vote on June 5; Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is also facing recall, but her chances of prevailing against challenger Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, look better than Walker’s prospects, meaning that Wisconsin could wind up with a governor and lieutenant governor of differing parties, which is not customary in the Dairy State.

    But, more importantly, Democrats have a chance to win back control of the state Senate, which, if Walker should survive the election, would serve as a substantial check on his power.

  3. rikyrah says:

    Political Animal
    May 26, 2012 12:49 PM
    Gov. Scott Orders Purging of Florida’s Voter Rolls – Just in Time For Prez Election

    By Adele Stan

    You remember, Florida, right? Land of the hanging chad? A state in which a margin of several hundred votes could determine the outcome of a presidential election — that is, of course, if the U.S. Supreme Court allows the votes to be counted.

    ThinkProgress’ Judd Legum today has a disturbing report from the Sunshine State:

    According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge ordered by Governor Rick Scott. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress.


    That process produced a massive list of 182,000 names, which [then Secretary of State Kurt] Browning considered unreliable. The Fair Elections Legal Network, which is challenging the purge, noted that database matching is “notoriously unreliable” and “data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changing information can all produce false matches.” Further, some voters may have naturalized since their driver’s license information was collected

    Legum’s report features a letter sent to one registered voter, Maureen Russo, by the Broward County elections supervisor, alleging that she is not a U.S. citizen. The burden of proof, Legum writes, is on the letter’s recipient. From ThinkProgress:

    In Broward County 259 people recieved letters just like the one addressed to Maureen above, according to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections. So far only 7 (including Maureen) have responded to the ominous and legalistic letter. Five of the responses included proof of citizenship.

    If the other 252 people don’t respond within 30 of recieving the letter — a deadline that is rapidly approaching — they will be summarily removed from the voting roles.

    In state after state, right-wing Republicans are seeking to pare the voter rolls by any means necessary. In high-turnout elections, Republicans tend to fare less well, especially when turnout includes sizable percentages of racial and ethnic minority groups.

    Just last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down those portions of Arizona’s draconian voter law that would have required proof of citizenship to be produced during the voter registration process, which would have all but ended the sort of voter registration drives undertaken at the grassroots level (often in shopping mall parking lots, urban streets, sporting events and the like). I mean, who walks around with her birth certificate in her pocketbook? (Regrettably, the court upheld the portion of the law that requires voters to produce a state-issued photo ID at the polls.)

    So when you hear activists fuming about right-wing efforts, such as those by the American Legislative Exchange Council, to suppress voter turnout, know that they’re not exaggerating. And, if current polls hold up, the 2012 presidential race promises to be a close one. You can call that fact the Hokey Pokey, because that’s what it’s all about.

  4. rikyrah says:

    Political Animal
    May 26, 2012 2:07 PM
    Senate Committee Votes to Support All Our Troops With Shaheen Amendment

    By Adele Stan
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    If you’re a member of the U.S. military and you happen to be a woman, you might think you were entitled to the full range of health care allowed your civilian counterparts. But you would be wrong. That’s why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., crafted an amendment to the National Defense Appropriation Act that would grant, according to the Ms. magazine Web site:

    the same rights as civilian women under federal policies that provide affordable abortion care to women who are the victims of rape or incest. Under the current policy, servicewomen are only eligible for abortion care if the woman’s life is at risk.

    On Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the amendment by a 16-10 vote. The measure must next move to the Senate floor, and faces an uncertain future if, as expected, the appropriations bill goes to a joint conference. (The House bill is not expected to include a similar provision.)

    Currently, abortions are forbidden to military personnel unless they are victims of sexual assault or the pregnancy endangers their lives. But if the pregnancy is the result of a rape the soldier, sailor or Marine must pay for her own abortion — a cost that can be prohibitive on a military paycheck. And in a war zone, a woman in uniform will likely find no civilian medical professionals available to her who will perform the procedure.

    This is all the more galling when one considers the epidemic of sexual assault against military women that continues to grip the armed forces — assaults perpetrated by men who are supposed to be their comrades.

    In 2009, reporting for CBS News, Katie Couric delivered this statistic:

    One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world.

    And the numbers haven’t changed much. Because of the stigma attached to reporting one’s rape by a fellow soldier, it’s not unheard of for a woman made pregnant through rape to try to self abort. (For one account, see Kathryn Joyce’s outstanding 2009 article, “Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend,” at Religion Dispatches.)

    If Congress really wants to show its appreciation to all of our troops, it will pass the appropriations bill with the Shaheen amendment in tact. But with this Congress, whose freshmen claim to love, love them some Constitution, military women will likely learn the limits of the right-wing version of the U.S. Constitution. (Now, what do you need all those rights, for, little lady?)

  5. rikyrah says:

    Why Pick on Chief Justice Roberts?

    by BooMan
    Sat May 26th, 2012 at 04:13:30 PM EST

    It seems to me that several conservative columnists, including George Will, are essentially taunting Chief Justice John Roberts. They keep saying that Roberts will never be so weak as to uphold ObamaCare. They don’t say these things about Justice Kennedy, which is strange because the conservatives need both Roberts and Kennedy to vote against ObamaCare if it is going to be ruled unconstitutional. I kind of feel like they are worried that they’ll lose this decision in a 6-3 vote, or worse. Before I herd the oral arguments, I figured the decision would be 8-1 to uphold the individual mandate. Clarence Thomas would have been the lone holdout. The law and precedents are pretty clear.

    But it could be that the conservatives on the Court have just been gathering strength, waiting until they had enough power and the right case to totally transform the federal government’s relationship to the states. This could be their moment. Or, maybe not. Maybe Kennedy is not on board. Maybe Roberts is less radical than he seems.

    I feel like the two most likely results are a 6-3 decision to uphold, with Thomas, Scalia, and Alito dissenting, or a 5-4 decision to strike down the mandate, with all the liberals dissenting. I don’t see a scenario where Kennedy votes to strike the mandate but Roberts saves it.

    That’s why I think George Will’s premise is stupid. But maybe he doesn’t want the embarrassment of losing this case by another more than a 5-4 split.

  6. Ametia says:

    Obama lost the month of May? Seriously, Politico?

  7. Ametia says:


  8. Ametia says:

    May 26, 10:52 AM EDT
    Vatican confirms pope’s butler arrested in scandal
    Associated Press

    VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican confirmed on Saturday that the pope’s butler has been arrested in its embarrassing leaks scandal, adding a Hollywood twist to a sordid tale of power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance

    Paolo Gabriele, a layman and member of the papal household, was arrested Wednesday after secret documents were found in his Vatican City apartment and was continuing to be held Saturday, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

    Gabriele is often seen by Pope Benedict XVI’s side in public, riding in the front seat of his open-air jeep during Wednesday general audiences or shielding the pontiff from the rain. He has been the pope’s personal butler since 2006, one of the few members of the small papal household that also includes the pontiff’s private secretaries and four consecrated women who care for the papal apartment.

    His arrest followed another stunning development at the Vatican this week, the ouster of the president of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, by his board. Sources close to the investigation said he, too, was found to have leaked documents, though the official reason for his ouster was that he simply failed to do his job.

    The “Vatileaks” scandal has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time during which it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.

  9. Ametia says:

    Good Morning, Everyone! :-)

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