Credit: courtesy Marriott Theatre

Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear,” went the intro toThe Lone Ranger radio and TV shows. Marriott Theatre’s revival of Oklahoma! might as well start with the same line. Interested in a
realistic depiction of life in the Sooner State on the eve of its 1907
admission to the union? One that alludes to ugly truths about the way
Native Americans were treated? One that so much as features a Native
American? Go see August: Osage County. Oklahoma! sticks
as close to the historical record as, say, a serial about a masked Texas
Ranger who rides around on a white horse fighting bad guys with the help of
his trusty sidekick, Tonto.

Yes, it’s nostalgia porn. It was nostalgia porn back when it premiered in
1943. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote it that way, to help
World War II-era American audiences understand what we were fighting for.
Curly the cowpoke has an almost Thoreauvian appreciation for the bright
golden haze on the meadow. He’s stuck on strong, sassy farm girl Laurey and
defends her when she’s stalked by Jud the hired man, whose evil is implicit
in his lack of connection to the clean natural world. Their battle takes
place on an archetypal level, with no room for ambivalence or inconvenient
facts. I sat through Aaron Thielen’s solid, respectful production fully
aware of the stories that weren’t being told—but enthralled by the one that
was: by its humor, its sense of hope, and the bone-deep sweetness of its
classic score.   v