Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!

FranklinDickson2018
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#1
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:05am
https://pagesix.com/2019/07/09/hammersteins-grandson-says-oklahoma-revival-is-a-travesty/
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#2
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:10am

He's not wrong. But the revival I really think Andy Hammerstein should call out for being godawful was the last CAROUSEL. For some reason, I'll forgive this OKLAHOMA! easier than the evisceration of CAROUSEL last season. 

This OKLAHOMA! is not what Dick and Oscar intended the piece to be, but I still came away admiring certain aspects, particularly the musical treatment (save for the ballet), which was different in sound, but still proved the durability and timelessness of Rodgers' music. 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#3
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:10am

A) Who cares? Being someone's grandchild (and not the one who runs the estate) gives you 0% more expertise on their very public work than anyone.

B) Mount your own then.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#4
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:22am

BJR said: "A) Who cares? Being someone's grandchild (and not the one who runs the estate) gives you 0% more expertise on their very public work than anyone.

B) Mount your own then.
"

Agreed!

I can't wait until these shows are in the public domain so we really see what creative directors do with them. They might not all work, but I'm excited for the opportunity. Sadly the way this country is going Congress will keep extending copyright laws to keep their donors happy. 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#5
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:24am

If the family/estate didn't want them to do it, why let them?! One you let them, seems like you want the best of both worlds. Give me the money, and your version sucks?

Also, as to saying they "would be rolling in their graves"... what's stopping them?!

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#6
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:34am

Not for nothing, his 2011 comments about an Oklahoma revival proved remarkably prescient:

"There is talk about transferring Arena Stage’s Oklahoma! to New York. Is Broadway ready for another production of Oklahoma! this season, and why do you think this production could be successful, when a recent Broadway revival was not? I think the best theatre to move the show to is The Circle in the Square which is similar to the Fichandler Theatre where the Arena Stage was staged.

No. You are quite right. A young, fresh-faced, in-the-round “alt” production coming in under the radar might hit the spot. Go for the lower expectation and surpass it!"

https://dctheatrescene.com/2011/01/07/interview-with-oscar-andrew-hammerstein-iii/

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
Updated On: 7/10/19 at 10:34 AM
After Eight
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#7
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:39am

" Being someone's grandchild (and not the one who runs the estate) gives you 0% more expertise on their very public work than anyone."

 

Perhaps not. But that grandchild has the same right as anyone to have an unfavorable opinion of this production, and to voice it. I might also suggest that that grandchild might have a better understanding of his grandfather's artistic vision than those who never even knew what Oklahoma! was prior to this production, and are now fawning all over it.

There have been many walkouts at this production, and I know many people who have despised it, and have had no problem saying so. If they are free to feel as they do, and say as much, why can't Oscar Hammerstein's grandchild have the same right?

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#8
Posted: 7/10/19 at 10:55am
"Noel [Coward] and I were in Paris once. Adjoining rooms, of course. One night, I felt mischievous, so I knocked on Noel's door, and he asked, 'Who is it?' I lowered my voice and said 'Hotel detective. Have you got a gentleman in your room?' He answered, 'Just a minute, I'll ask him.'" (Beatrice Lillie)
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#9
Posted: 7/10/19 at 11:21am

As the show commented back, not one word of the script or song lyrics have been changed.

If the text is exactly as Hammerstein wrote it, I can't see what his issue with it is. There's a big difference between "It betrays the script" and "I didn't like the production"

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#10
Posted: 7/10/19 at 12:15pm

There are any number of reasons to care (he's probably spent more of his life thinking about this show, and with more detailed information of it's creation, than most people who stage it), but the bottom line--I just said this in the My Fair Lady thread--is that all works get re-envisioned and even turned on their heads in contemporary theatre. It's foolish to be surprised, though I admit I'd rather see Oklahoma! or La Traviata, staged in a way that respects their authors' intentions rather than someone coming along later to decide what it should be about. I'm a realist that these things will happen, but at heart I'm a traditionalist. 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#11
Posted: 7/10/19 at 1:41pm
TBH, I've always thought Oklahoma! sucked until this production, so Oscar's grandkid can cry all he wants about how they somehow turned that boring, corny, dusty, old show into something interesting, but he won't get my sympathy. He should just shut up and collect his money.
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#12
Posted: 7/10/19 at 1:46pm

LOL, I love Oklahoma! with all my heart and soul, but your response cracks me up (and, hey, it's honest). 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#13
Posted: 7/10/19 at 2:20pm

Did anyone really think that this revival would be a mainstream success? It is a noble experiment with the material (except for the ballet) and could well have an effect on the dozens of Oklahoma revivals that continue to appear every decade.

In particular, the role of Judd May be treated with more respect and his song “Lonely Room,” his only chance to justify his actions to the audience, won’t be cut.

I think that the chili and cornbread intermission could become a fine tradition with future revivals.?.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#14
Posted: 7/10/19 at 2:29pm

Should his actions be justified (rather than explained)? We're talking about rape after all. When the song was first played for Lynn Riggs, he said "That's going to scare the hell out of the audience" and Hammerstein said "That's just what it's supposed to do."

Updated On: 7/10/19 at 02:29 PM
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#15
Posted: 7/10/19 at 3:57pm

After Eight said: "that grandchild has the same right as anyone to have an unfavorable opinion of this production,and to voice it."

Yes, but were they not the grandson, they wouldn't get media attention for their opinion.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#16
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:04am

Alex Kulak2 said: "As the show commented back, not one word of the script or song lyrics have been changed.

If the text is exactly as Hammerstein wrote it, I can't see what his issue with it is. There's a big difference between "It betrays the script" and "I didn't like the production"
"

A production can say the same words and yet ignore the original intentions. It happens all the time. There may be no legal recourse, but that doesn't mean fans of the show can't object to what they feel violates the spirit of the writing.

For example, there are far too many productions of THE MUSIC MAN where the boy's band and Winthrop suddenly play the Minuet in G as if they were the NY Philharmonic, complete with a solo from Winthrop that would make Wynton Marsalis proud. Or, to take another example, one production I saw brought in the local high school band--100+ strong--for "76 Trombones", thereby upstaging the rest of the show while raising the question, "If River City already has a high school band, what is Harold Hill selling?"

Both choices completely betray the spirit of the show. What's moving at the end is that the parents don't care that the playing is terrible; they are thrilled that their boys are playing anything remotely recognizable. This is true to the world of a small Iowa town at the turn of the 20th century; the choices in the previous paragraph are not.

***

I love OKLAHOMA! and I don't think it will ever be "dated" except when done as a museum piece or unless the USA ceases to be a country based on an ideal.

I also love the new recording. I think the singers, especially Curley, Laurie and Ado Annie, do a great job of melding bluegrass twang with the mid-20th century Broadway sound.

So my question is this (since I'm 3,000 miles away and may never see the new version): does the new revival really change the subtext of the R&H piece? Because descriptions of it just sound like the director took what was subtext or symbolic and made it literal instead.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#17
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:20am
IMHO the director subverted the intentions of the show’s creators in the final scenes. The darker tone throughout and the change in the dream ballet didn’t really bother me, but that ending was just too much of a betrayal. That’s all I can say without spoilers..
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#18
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:25am

I hate this article for one main reason, the timing. Why was this not commented on while off-Broadway, or when this just made it to Broadway? Why post this now, even waaay after the Tonys? The end of the article mentions that Hammerstein III is just so happening having a concert this weekend. I'm not saying Hammerstein's grandson doesn't think this, but it just seems like a marketing ploy. He can throw shade at a Tony winning production and boom, he got some free advertising. That just rubs me the wrong way.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#19
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:35am

mamaleh said: "IMHO the director subverted the intentions of the show’s creators in the final scenes. The darker tone throughout and the change in the dream ballet didn’t really bother me, but that ending was just too much of a betrayal. That’s all I can say without spoilers.."

I'm not fishing for spoilers, but let me say this: one of the distinctive things about Hammerstein's librettos is that he is aware that change--even happy endings--require sacrifice. Julie pays the price way back in the 1920s in SHOW BOAT. (She quits her job and disappears, so Magnolia can work instead.)

By OKLAHOMA!, Hammerstein had sharpened his focus: the happy ending of the show--including the "brand new state"--is only achieved through the death of Jud, even if no blood is splashed on the newlyweds. The helpless bigot, Lt. Cable, is sacrificed in SOUTH PACIFIC; the old-fashioned autocrat, the King, dies in THE KING AND I.

This is a running theme in Hammerstein's work, so I'm left to wonder when I read descriptions of this new interpretation. It just doesn't sound all that new, except that it seems to resist attempts to perform OK! as a traditional musical comedy.

In fact, the death of Jud in a musical was quite shocking in 1943 and a new term, the "musical play", was invented to described the R&H shows. So OK! was understood to be a new genre, even 75 years ago.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#20
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:39am

Well, these quotes are not entirely new, and his thoughts have been known for a while, so it is not opportunistic. This is just reiterating it all and giving new life and press to it. Not entirely his fault.

As yes, you can leave every word and note of music in tact in a show and still FULLY change the intent and impact of the story through directorial choices. Doing so is defying your duty as a director and insulting the authors' work. It DOES happen. That is also a very different discussion than merely disagreeing with a concept for a production.

As far as the Estate goes, the Estate and control over the R&H properties was sold off some years back and the family has as much control over the show as any poster here, so allow the man to voice his feelings the same as anyone here. If he had the ability to put a stop to those choices in this production, he no doubt would have.

 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#21
Posted: 7/11/19 at 12:50am

^^^ And, meanwhile, there is nothing to stop companies from doing a traditional OKLAHOMA! in polka dots and gingham.

Updated On: 7/11/19 at 12:50 AM
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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#22
Posted: 7/11/19 at 1:02am
 
Click Here To Toggle Spoiler Content

Here is my writeup of what happens at the end, spoilters included:

https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/04/oklahoma-violence-as-american-as-chili.html

 

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#23
Posted: 7/11/19 at 1:22am

GavestonPS, Yes. Fully. Nowhere am I disagreeing with that or saying that either of those concepts are incorrect. I am VERY consciously trying NOT to say anything along those lines or judge what is placed on stage or comment on my feelings about the production in question. I am merely addressing the idea in question.

One can do a lighthearted Oklahoma. One can do a dark Oklahoma. There is validity in both. One can do either and be faithful to the page and not substantially change the intent of the piece. THIS production of Oklahoma, while staying faithful to the *spoken* text, does something entirely different and that is making directorial choices and crafting scene work that SUBSTANTIALLY alters where each of these characters is at the end of the story. The debate on the validity of that choice is separate.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#24
Posted: 7/11/19 at 1:24am

Thank you for going to so much trouble, poisonivy2. I really, really appreciate it!

I think I understand the controversy now, if only for the post-modern mix of styles. Obviously that wasn't the original intention because people were still being "modern" in 1943 and hadn't yet decided to be "post".

I'm very perplexed by some the actions in the final scene. Based on my limited understanding, I have to wonder why--if that was the statement they wanted to make--they decided to make it with this show. I'm sure that wasn't the librettist's intention. It is, however, true to the history of the actual Oklahoma, a violent, racist, but very multi-ethnic affair in the decades preceding statehood.

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Hammerstein grandson on Oklahoma!#25
Posted: 7/11/19 at 7:41am

I haven't seen the show yet and now want to more than ever.

Gaveston, I also read Poison's "spoiler" link.  I'm not perplexeed at all.  From the very first time I saw Oklahoma (it began with the movie) as a child, it seemed to me that there was more than just an undercurrent of oppressive corny Americana be-a-one-of-us-cookie-cutter or suffer, a kind of cultural domination.  To me Oklahoma! is the quintessential, even primal, show to make this production's point, especially in this day and age when "those states" (God help us, another loathsome form of cultural domination by some narrow-minded coastals who delight in falsely - stupidly! - reducing "flyover" to a monolith) represent something very similar to so many.

As far as this treatment not being at all the author's intention in the 1940s, to me that is not a pivotal concern.  What is is that the show now works.  If it does.

To me, the show does not wstork as originally envisioned.  It never has (in my lifetime, and I'm... well, you know how old I am).

As far as Oscar's grandson goes, nothing wrong with him weighing in.  My only problem is that the article seems more interested in &*()-stirring by showing his dissent than in actually relating more precisely what in the show he finds so objectionable.