Today in History, March 31, 1943:
Historically Broadway musicals had gone for flash and opened with a bang.
So most critics expected this folksy, country new musical, opening on Broadway in the middle of WWII, to bomb.
They misunderstood the mood of the nation, which had been in the midst of world war and the related personal losses and stress for years.
When Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! premiered on this date in 1943 on Broadway, it opened with the melodious tunes of a cowboy singing as he greeted a peaceful morning.
Almost in unison the war weary audience let out an audible “aaaaahh”.
By the time the cast had sung the title song and closed the play, Joan Roberts (Laurey) says that the applause was deafening through two encores. The record setting musical would run for 15 years, 2,212 performances, before closing.