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Oh, What a Beautiful Broadway Run- OKLAHOMA! Cast Reflects on Final Performance

Oh, what a beautiful Broadway run...

In 1943, a brand new musical from new composing team Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein astounded the world and changed Broadway forever. In 2019, the very same show returned over seven decades later with an equally astounding effect.

Today, the Tony-winning revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! concludes its limited Broadway run at Circle in the Square Theatre, where it has played 22 previews and 328 regular performances. Illuminated in a new light by director Daniel Fish, this Oklahoma! told the same story as audiences had never seen or heard it before- re-orchestrated and reimagined for the 21st century.

Oklahoma!

Long before Broadway, Fish developed, produced, and premiered his take on Oklahoma! at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in July 2015, followed by a sold-out 2018 run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. Patrick Vaill, who plays Jud Fry, has been along for the ride. "[Jud is] a bear of a part and my great fortune in getting to play it is not lost on me in any way." says Vaill. "My favorite part about playing it has been to take material and a character that is so full and be given permission to mine it for everything it's got. It's a gorgeous role and I'm so grateful to have played it."

Mallory Portnoy and Mitch Tebo, who play Gertie Cummings and Andrew Carnes respectively, enjoyed finding dimension in their typically comedic characters. "It's wonderful to be entertaining and get laughs, but it's best when that comes from an authentic place. And the transition to arbiter in the final scene where the stakes are high was very satisfying," says Tebo.

"[Gertie is] this wild, sassy, sexy, balls to the wall, high energy, party girl, who unabashedly goes after what she wants, and I've really enjoyed tapping into how those characteristics live inside of me," explains Portnoy. "There is also this dark, rage-filled, addict, white nationalist element to her that makes the character even more complex and fulfilling to play. And there is nothing like making 650 people laugh when you laugh!"

Oklahoma!

All of the cast agrees that come tomorrow, they will miss their fellow farmers and cowmen the most. "I love every single person who has worked on this show over the years so much. They are my family and I can't imagine life without them," says Portnoy. "I also think it's rare to be in a piece of theater that is considered ground-breaking or paradigm-shifting or spearheading the way a genre can be seen, so the fulfillment of knowing you are actually affecting audiences combined with the utter joy it is to just do the show night after night, are both things I will definitely miss."

The legacy that this revival will leave will be vast. In addition to being a Tony-winning, critical darling of the 2019 Broadway season, the show has hopefully opened doors, allowing artists and audiences of the future to take a closer look at other classic musicals.

"[I'm proud] that we moved people and got them to think about Oklahoma! in a new way," says Tebo. "Theater should reflect our inner nature back to us and it should also open us up to new experiences and perspectives. Watching the faces of the audience at curtain call and speaking to them after it was gratifying to see and hear the audience's thoughtful and emotional response to the performance."

"I hope that this revival has shown people that a revival needn't be a retread nor does it need to be an overhaul," says Vaill. "These are classics for a reason, and their creators knew the radical things that they were doing. Everything you need to make great theater is right there in plain sight if you take the time and trust the material to hold its own. Because it will, if it's a good piece of work. You can expect to find present-day resonance in them the way you would expect to in a Shakespeare revival. I also want it to be remembered for being really f-ing good."



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