The events at the Theatre Guild leading up to the arrival of Oklahoma! on Broadway are quite interesting, and as always with the theatre: precarious!
While Oklahoma! was in the creation mode, Broadway theatre was in huge difficulty as a result of the Great Depression. Needless to say, no matter how much people wanted to go to the theatre, in the 1930s they didn’t have the money to do it. And in the 1940s the war came along and made theatre-going feel like a frivolous thing to do when so much destruction was occurring around the world.
The mid 1930s brought a series of mistaken choices in the plays the Theatre Guild produced. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who had done 20 plays with the Theatre Guild, decided to part ways and join Noel Cowart in a partnership. The Guild was in serious debt, but fortunately was rescued by producing Philip Barry’s play, The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn in the lead.
It helped the Guild through the end of the 30s. However, with the war the mood at the Guild fell into a low ebb and only received “a lift of a lifetime” when they produced Oklahoma! in March 1943.