Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Theatre History

Hello Friends!

We are very pleased today because Cindy Adams, Page Six writer for the New York Post, was writing an article about Theatre History in the wake of last night’s Tony Awards .

Lo and behold! The Theatre Guild got a nod from Ms. Adams:

1918. Formation of the Theatre Guild. Also, Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” That’s 99 years before the Golden’s current occupants grabbed all those nominations for “Part 2.”

Click here for the full article.

99 years!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a century—and we are very excited about our 100th Anniversary, as there may well be a new commemorative postage stamp similar to the one to mark the 50th Anniversary of our musical Oklahoma!.

ok stamp
Best regards,
Philip & Marilyn Langner

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A Little More Than Just Inflation

Dear Friends,

It never ceases to amaze us just how high tickets prices on Broadway have gotten!  We’re not even talking about the Hamilton phenomenon, where, if you’re willing to wait until next January, you can get center orchestra tickets for $849 A PERSON!

We decided to do some research about the average ticket price and we found one article where the writer says that she paid $2.50 (stand-up seats) in 1960 to see Gypsy at the Imperial Theatre.  According to the Dollar Times, that would be the same as purchasing the ticket for $20.53 today.  Today, Rear Mezzanine tickets to see Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet also at the Imperial start at $59.00—three times as much!

We then decided to look at our biggest hit, Oklahoma!, and found that the price in 1943 for the best seat was $4.80—that is $68.57 today.

Oklahoma

Anyone who has been to the theatre recently will know that it is hard to find mezzanine tickets for $68 dollars, let alone orchestra seats!  Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet (Imperial Theatre) is selling orchestra tickets starting at $169 per ticket, and center orchestra tickets for Miss Saigon at the Broadway Theatre are $249 per ticket.

It is not unthinkable to know that tickets prices have increased over the years—but to increase 4, 5, or even 10 times, even accounting for inflation?  CRAZY!

The last days of Pompeii?

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

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Green Grow The Lilacs

Dear Friends,

As we have been reminiscing during this holiday season about our childhood and things that we loved, we remembered a favorite song–Green Grow the Lilacs.

Green grow the lilacs, all sparkling with dew

I’m lonely my darling since parting with you

And by the next meeting, I hope to prove true

To exchange the green lilacs for the red, white, and blue!

It was an Irish folk song that was made popular in the United States during the 19th century. Mexican soldiers during the Mexican-American War misheard the American soldiers singing “Green Grow” and started calling our soldiers “gringos!”

Later on, it was turned into a play of the same name by Lynn Riggs. The Theatre Guild produced it on Broadway in 1931, starring Franchot Tone, June Walker, and Tex Ritter. The Theatre Guild then decided to make it into a musical, and engaged Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein to write it. Oklahoma! opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances! Out of the 128 plays The Guild produced on Broadway, it became its greatest hit!

But of course, Green Grow the Lilacs started it all and we were able to find a wonderful YouTube video of the song sung by Tex Ritter (ahhh, the marvels of the internet!).

Enjoy and Happy New Year!
Philip & Marilyn

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The Lift of a Lifetime!

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.

Oklahoma-Playbill-03-43

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Oklahoma!

Seventy two years ago, the first performance of Oklahoma! opened on Broadway (March 31, 1943—if you’re struggling with the math!).

It was such an amazing feat for musical theatre and was the first of a long line of amazing collaborations between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, II.

In honor of the anniversary of this magnificent opening, we thought we’d share some of our wonderful memories about the momentous play, starting by sharing this photo from our archives of a commemorative (for the 50th Anniversary!) song book.

oklahoma!

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Broadway Hit!

This picture is every producer’s dream—lots of people scurrying to buy tickets!  In fact, when Oklahoma! opened in 1943, we had to hire a full time policeman to handle the crowds (a rare expense a producer doesn’t mind paying!).

majority

At any rate, this picture of the line out front of A Majority of One in February 1959 makes us think of what a pleasure it is to have a hit play on Broadway.

Majority was written by Leonard Spigelgass and directed by Dore Schary.  Gertrude Berg plays a Jewish mother on a ship to Japan, where her son has been killed in the War.  On board the ship, she meets a Japanese business man, played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke (a lovely man!), with whom she falls in love.

We all know that only one out of four Broadway plays earns its money back, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from constantly fighting to get their plays produced.

All we can say as producers is “we’re sure this next one will be a hit!”

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Oklahoma!

After we sent out the letter from the Dramatist Guild urging you to contact the U.S. Postal Service regarding a commemorative stamp, we started reminiscing and looking through our collections of first issue stamps that we just love—and of course, why we think it’s so important for these stamps to be created!

ok stamp

Of course, this is one of our favorites.  It’s kind of hard to pick A favorite, but this would be close—given our history with Oklahoma! and Rodgers & Hammerstein.  We (and by we, I mean The Theatre Guild, which at that time was under direction of Lawrence and Armina Langner and Theresa Helburn) opened Oklahoma! on Broadway March 31, 1943 at the St. James Theatre.  It ran for 5 years with over 2,212 performances—by far the most successful play of its time!

We have always loved this play—and movie!  You can watch it instantly on Amazon or to purchase it and watch it anytime, you can find it on our Amazon store!

 

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