Oklahoma!was the first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and was ground-breaking in its day, developing the idea of the “book musical” initiated by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II when they wrote Show Boat. Not only did Oklahoma! integrate the songs and dance into the narrative, but it used recurring musical motifs throughout to underpin the story.

Now Richard Carroll is putting a fresh spin on the classic American show by casting a female actor as the cocky cowboy Curly McLain and using a bluegrass quartet instead of an orchestra in his production for Black Swan State Theatre Company, which runs from 28 November to 20 December.

Emily Havea and Richard Carroll. Photograph © Maryna Rothe

Emily Havea will play Curly. Carroll approached Havea – whose credits include the musical Caroline, or Changeat the Hayes Theatre Co, Julius Caesar for Bell Shakespeare and Kill Climate Deniersfor Griffin Theatre Company – over a year ago about playing the role.

“I definitely knew that I wanted to cast a female actor in the role. For me it was really about...