(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Tun-Times, 9/20)
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” opened on Broadway in 1943, as World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific. And if you watch this game-changing musical with that historical context in mind — and director Jim Corti’s glorious, grand-scale, effortlessly modern revival at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre is a must-see production — you will realize this show was as essential to the war effort as any victory garden or war bond drive.
That is certainly not to say it is a sugary, patriotic piece of Americana. Quite the opposite. As in all Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, there is conflict (moral, cultural, romantic), there is a look at the darker side of human nature, and there is plenty of questioning about matters of justice, violence and freedom. Yet at the same time there is a spirit of hope and optimism at work — of carrying on in the face of setbacks, facing individual imperfections and ultimately celebrating the gritty fabric of this country.
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