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by Peter Jorgensen

Making Oklahoma into Oklahoma!

"What should the title be?" Oklahoma wasn't quite right. But when the show's creators saw that they had something extraordinary on their hands what had been Oklahoma was finally renamed Oklahoma!

That exclamation point was well earned. Oklahoma! was the biggest thing to happen on Broadway in a long time and altered the musical theatre landscape forever. But the question I struggled with when approaching this masterpiece of musical theatre was, "Is it still deserving of its exclamatory title?"

Since its original record-setting run Oklahoma! has been a favourite in schools, community and church groups, regional theatre companies, national tours, Broadway revivals and on film. So OK already, we get it: Oklahoma! Been there, done that. Why do we keep going back?

Well, as Rodgers and Hammerstein said in another musical, "We start at the very beginning." And for Rodgers and Hammerstein that meant the story - because for them - every creative idea came from the story they were trying to tell. The words, the music, the dancing - if it didn't help tell the story it wasn't in the show.

For me the story is always the single most important part of any musical. So when constructing our production of Oklahoma! we did not focus on the music or the dancing, exciting as those are. The question was always, "How do we best tell this story?"

Some may think presenting Oklahoma! in an intimate space with a small cast might be a hindrance towards capturing the excitement of the show... but for me these issues allowed us to focus on the heart and soul of the play and recapture the truly breathtaking moments of the show. Or in the words of Lynn Riggs, "to try to exhibit luminously, in the simplest of stories, a wide area of mood and feeling."

And I believe, if we have done our job, that you will see what truly made Oklahoma! worthy of its exclamation point: fascinating characters living out their stories in beautiful, poetic, sad, passionate, frustrating, revelatory detail in front of your eyes. Along the way they manage to do some singing and dancing too...

But for me it is and forever will be the story that made Oklahoma into Oklahoma! Enjoy!


Biography

Peter is having the time of his life this year as a director. Since January he has directed The Emperor of Atlantis for City Opera!, The Full Monty for his own company, Patrick Street Productions, Little Shop of Horrors for Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon and now gets to tackle the iconic Oklahoma!. Last year he received a Jessie Nomination for his direction of Patrick Street's Into the Woods. Other favourite directing credits include, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Baker's Wife and Marry Me a Little.

As an actor Peter has starred in many musicals around BC. Favourite roles include Georg Novack in She Loves Me, Frankie in Forever Plaid, Harold Hill in The Music Man and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. Vancouver Island audiences may remember Peter from tours of Forever Plaid and Dames at Sea or the Belfry Theatre productions of Lies and Legends and Dirty Blonde. He eternally thanks Katey Wright, his partner in all things. Visit Peter online at www.peterjorgensen.com.