The cast of "Oklahoma!" during last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

"Oklahoma!" Is Back on Broadway—in a Brand-New State

You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.


Dance Spirit: What got you interested in Oklahoma!?

John Heginbotham: I grew up with musical theater. It was my introduction to entertainment and to the performing arts, and Oklahoma! was one of the first movie musicals that I ever saw. There was always a soundtrack playing in my house, and we'd watch tons of movies. I was extremely excited to be asked to be part of this version.

Rebecca Naomi Jones (left) as Laurey with Damon Daunno (right) as Curly in last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

DS: What's the choreography like?

JH: There's quite a bit of dancing in the revival, but a lot of it's based on social dancing: two-steps and country swing, things that you might see at a community center in the South. The beauty is that everybody brings their personality to the moves. That's how it would be if you were at a dance party; everybody kind of dances in their own way. The one exception to that is the dream ballet, which is performed primarily by a single performer, Gabrielle Hamilton.

DS: How did you approach the dream ballet?

JH: Our way into the dream ballet is through this one performer. She's purposefully ambiguous, and the intention is that the audience is free to associate and interpret what they're seeing. The vocabulary features quotes from Agnes de Mille and her original dream ballet, and images that were previously mundane in the show presented in much more sinister or fantastical ways. It's a surreal sequence that for me follows dream logic. I'm hoping it's going to feel startling, but also tender and lovely.

DS: Was it intimidating to choreograph your own version of a piece so many people know and love?

JH: Yes, 100 percent. Agnes de Mille broke serious new ground with the dream ballet, and she made a strong case for what the place of it should be in the show. We're doing something that's really different, but I think it's true to her intention—'What is going to advance the plot, or the momentum, or the arc of the show?' I would say that if somebody pays a lot of money expecting to see an arabesque, they will not be very happy.


A version of this story appeared in the April 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Oklahoma! Heads to Broadway—in a Brand-New State."

Latest Posts


Nathan Sayers

From "Dance Moms" to Complexions: Ballerina Kaeli Ware's Unconventional Path to Success

Take one look at Kaeli Ware's Instagram page and you'll be captivated. The elegant, impossibly long-limbed ballet dancer has over 110 thousand followers hooked on her every polished move. But the 19-year-old phenom isn't just a social media sensation. Having already conquered the competition scene and the world of dance reality TV, Ware recently joined Complexions Contemporary Ballet as a trainee. These days, she splits her time between NYC and Philadelphia, PA, where she continues to beef up her classical training at The Rock School for Dance Education.

She's not a traditional bunhead, and she's not a run-of-the-mill social influencer, either. Instead, Ware is creating her own hybrid career path—and it's taking her to impressive places.

Keep Reading
(From left) Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, and Lauren Graham in "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist," courtesy NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Mandy Moore Puts Dance in the Spotlight in NBC's Newest Series, "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist"

Imagine living in a real-life musical, where spontaneous song-and-dance breaks happen as often in the street as they do onstage. After a series of unusual events, every dancers' dream becomes an unexpected reality for computer coder Zoey Clarke (played by Jane Levy) in NBC's newest series, "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist." Although at first her new powers catch Zoey off guard, when she learns to embrace them, she's able to connect with the world around her like never before.

And the best part? Every musical mashup puts incredible dancing front and center, thanks in large part to series choreographer and all around dance-for-the-screen extraordinaire, Mandy Moore. Dance Spirit chatted with Moore about choreographing for the dance-driven series, which returns to NBC with all-new episodes this Sunday, February 16 at 9/8c.

Keep Reading
Jerry Metellus, courtesy Val Chmerkovisky and Jenna Johnson

The Dance Power Couples of 2020

Given the endless hours dancers spend together in classes, rehearsals, and performances, it makes sense that onstage chemistry frequently leads to romance IRL. Sometimes the resulting relationships go beyond stage magic. Serious dance power couples not only perform together, but also collaborate on choreographic projects, embark on joint national tours, and even partner up for mainstream media gigs.

Here are seven fabulous dance couples we'll be 'shipping into the years ahead.

Keep Reading
contest
Enter the Cover Model Search