March 29—Wyatt Freeman hopes people will come sweep the plains to see a production from Oklahoma’s McAlester School!
Freeman, principal of the McAlester High School of Competitive Speech, Drama, and Mock Trial, said school performance at Oklahoma! this week will be familiar to most – but it’s a story for all ages.
“It’s a great storyline for kids because they can still relate to these characters and of course there are adult characters as well,” Freeman said. “So I think it’s a relatable story for kids and adults. I think it tells a very interesting American story and it’s something we can all be proud of.”
Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the musical duo Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, who went on to create a series of influential Broadway productions like “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I”.
They have won 34 Tony Awards, 15 Oscars and two Pulitzer Prizes, including a special Pulitzer for Oklahoma! in 1944.
Freeman compared Oklahoma! to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the hit American musical that has won multiple Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize since its Off-Broadway premiere in 2015.
“It was then what Hamilton is today,” Freeman said. “It was really the first real musical in terms of what we think of musicals today, so that’s significant.”
Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for 2,212 performances before having award-winning revivals, national tours, and led to a film adaptation that won Oscars in 1955 for musical score and sound recording.
A revival of the musical adapted for the 21st century directed by Daniel Fish on tour in the United States and which won a Tony Award for best revival of a musical.
Oklahoma! is based on the 1931 production Green Grow the Lilacs after Theater Guild producer Theresa Helburn decided to re-adapt it into a musical a decade later.
The musical is set near Claremore in 1906 and depicts farmer Laurey Williams in court with rival suitors Curly McLain and Jud Fry.
Freeman said he thought the musical provided audience members with a sense of relief during troubling times around the world. He said that was part of the reason he chose the play for the school’s latest production.
“I think we’re in a very similar time now with COVID and now with the war in Ukraine and the strong political division of the past few years,” Freeman said. “I think people are really desperate for a story that shows people coming together and that’s what this is about.
“This is about a group of ordinary American farmers who must put aside their differences and come together to support a young couple in love,” he added.
Freeman said he hopes for good turnout so students can feel supported and appreciated, but also to help move the program forward.
He said the program is hoping for at least 800 ticket sales to help fund future shows.
An orchestra of approximately 20 students and volunteers will accompany the production under the direction of MHS Director of Fine Arts, David Steidley. Freeman thanked all the students for their hard work and all the volunteers for helping to make the production possible.
“It’s a whole community coming together to create a work of art,” Freeman said.
Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at [email protected]