Is it possible to stage politically progressive versions of the classics from the US musical canon? This is the question posed by Black Swan State Theatre Company’s enormously enjoyable, lightly cabaretic staging of Oklahoma! from director Richard Carroll and musical director Victoria Falconer.
Emily Havea in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s Oklahoma! Photo © Daniel J Grant
The so-called naturalistic musical (or narrative musical) emerged out of the premiere productions of Show Boat(1927) and Oklahoma!(1943). Neither shape up well if you interrogate their politics today. Show Boatis a cautionary tale against cross-racial romance, while Oklahoma!celebrates the capitulation of the US central government in its attempts to restrain settlement in what was previously designated the Indian Territory and to instead allow Oklahoma and its white agriculturalists to move to full statehood ( this pieceby Dwanna L. McKay outlines the ugly history of white settlement in Oklahoma).
Carroll’s main strategy is to cast the cowboy and romantic lead Curly as a queer woman of colour (Emily...