For a piece of living history that's more than 50 years old, "Oklahoma!" remains in pretty good shape--more so, it might be argued, than most other revolutionary works of art.
When it opened in 1943, "Oklahoma!"--the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II--set several precedents; enough of them, in fact, that the term musical play came to stand for "Oklahoma!" and its progeny to distinguish them from their predecessors, which more closely related to Viennese-styled operettas. One of the first shows to use ballet to further the action, "Oklahoma!" also integrated song and dramatic action like no play before it.
But that's stuff from the textbooks. What's important to audiences is the show's interesting blend of comedy and high drama, and a collection of songs so strong that its first three numbers: "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and "Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City" became standards in short order, and that the rest of the score--including "People Will Say We're in Love," "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" and the title number--is just as strong.
In the local production running now through May 13 under the auspices of the Conejo Players, John K. Wilson stars as Curly McLain, the handsome young cowboy whose flirtations with the lovely Laurey (Heidi Maureen Goodspeed) threaten to erupt into something strong any moment unless menacing ranch-hand Jud Fry (Damian Gravino) causes the serious trouble that he's easily capable of.