Hugh Jackman became a star 25 years ago when he played Curly in the National Theatre’s revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! A filmed performance of that 1998 production is coming to cinemas worldwide on July 16 and 19. Tickets are on sale now at OklahomaInCinemas.com.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary, enjoy these 25 Fun Facts about the Production!
1. This National Theatre production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! opened on July 15, 1998 at the Olivier Theatre.
2. The limited engagement at the Olivier Theatre was a sell-out, breaking all previous box office records, so the show transferred to the Lyceum Theatre in the West End for a six-month run.
3. Howard Kissel of the New York Daily News said the Royal National Theatre “brought [Oklahoma!] back to us in a way that makes it seem fresh and vital.”
4. It was considered a “dark” interpretation for the time, dealing more frankly with the story’s sexual undertones. (Of course, the 2019 Daniel Fish revival, currently playing Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, takes that darkness even further!)
5. The show was directed by Trevor Nunn, then Artistic Director of the Royal National Theatre, who had previously directed Cats (1981) and Les Misérables (1985).
Hugh Jackman as Curly in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
6. Curly was Hugh Jackman’s breakout role. At the time, he was unknown outside of his native Australia, where he had appeared onstage and on television.
7. Hugh auditioned for X-Men while playing Curly! The blockbuster film premiered two years later, in 2000.
8. Josefina Gabrielle (Laurey) had made her National Theatre debut six years earlier in the ensemble of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel.
9. Musical director John Owen Edwards, orchestrator William David Brohn and dance arranger David Krane adapted the original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett.
10. Susan Stroman created an all-new “Dream Ballet” for this production, inspired by Agnes de Mille’s original choreography.
Jimmy Johnston, Maureen Lipman and Company in “Kansas City”
11. Curly and Laurey did their own dancing! Hugh & Josefina danced their own ballet, breaking the tradition of a “Dream Laurey” & “Dream Curly.”
12. Dame Maureen Lipman (Aunt Eller) is a multi-hyphenate British star, authoring several books and appearing in hundreds of stage, film and TV projects. Despite her experience, she won “Best Newcomer” – at age 73! – at the 2019 Inside Soap Awards for her appearance on Coronation Street.
13. Warren Carlyle, who performed in the ensemble, went on become the Assistant Choreographer of the production. In 2014, he won a Tony Award for choreographing After Midnight. His recent Broadway credits include directing and/or choreographing Hello, Dolly!; Kiss Me, Kate; The Music Man and the upcoming Harmony with music by Barry Manilow.
14. The 1998 production won four Olivier Awards, including Outstanding Musical Production.
15. Shuler Hensley (Jud Fry) won the Olivier for Best Featured Actor. When he reprised his performance in the 2002 Broadway transfer, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Shuler Hensley as Judy Fry and Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey
16. Anthony Ward’s Olivier-winning set design featured a giant turntable and plenty of space to capture the wide-open Oklahoma territory.
17. Some of the dance orchestrations were extended to accommodate Susan Stroman’s expanded choreography.
18. The production transferred to Broadway four years after the National Theatre premiere, opening at the Gershwin Theatre on March 21, 2002.
19. In the Broadway production, Patrick Wilson starred as Curly, earning a Tony nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.
20. Actors Equity Association, the American stage actors’ union, only permitted one British actor (Josefina Gabrielle) to transfer to Broadway.
Josefina Gabrielle, Maureen Lipman and Hugh Jackman
21. Andrea Martin played Aunt Eller on Broadway, earning the second of her six Tony nominations. (She won twice, for My Favorite Year and Pippin.)
22. The professional film shoot of the stage production took place in 1998, between the National Theatre run and the West End transfer.
23. The filmed version of the show originally aired in the US 20 years ago, premiering on PBS in November 2003.
24. The 2023 film screening begins with a mini-documentary about the 1998 production. Hosted by Imogen Lloyd Webber, the 6-minute doc features exclusive interviews with Susan Stroman, Warren Carlyle and Shuler Hensley.
25. Oklahoma! is better on the big screen! Don’t miss the theatrical re-release this July – Find a theatre near you here!