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The soundtrack to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! became the first album certified as gold by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) on this date in 1958. The musical was the first written together by the Broadway team and earned them a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. The original production opened on March 31, 1943 and ran for 2,212 performances before becoming an Oscar-winning film in 1955. The success of the cast recording soundtrack opened a floodgate for Broadway show recordings, which enabled the Broadway musical culture to spread widely through America. Oklahoma! was, writes theater writer Thomas Hischak, “the single most influential work in the American musical theatre . . . the first fully integrated musical play, and its blending of song, character, plot and even dance would serve as the model for Broadway shows for decades.” Set in Oklahoma Territory in 1906, it tells the story of a cowboy’s romance with a farm girl, and includes the famous songs, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.” To hear the theme, “Oklahoma,” from the 1955 film, look below.
“All the sounds of the earth are like music/ All the sounds of the earth are like music/ The breeze is so busy it don’t miss a tree,/ And a ol’ weepin’ willer is laughin’ at me!/ Oh, what a beautiful mornin’,/ Oh, what a beautiful day./ I got a beautiful feelin’ /Ev’rything’s goin’ my way.” --Oscar Hammerstein II
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.