The Broadway opening of Oklahoma! in 1943 is remembered as a landmark in American musical theater. The show was the first written by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, though both were theater veterans. Rodgers & Hammerstein turned out an exuberant, tuneful score in which all the songs grew out of the characters and the situations, an unusual approach in musical theater, where songs often had little relationship to the action. The point was made right at the start, when the choral number that opened most musicals was eschewed in favor of an off-stage leading man coming on and singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." It ran over five years, becoming the longest running musical in Broadway history up to its time. The score threw off several hits and standards, including "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," "People Will Say We're in Love," and the stirring title tune. Although there had been a tradition of recording music from stage works in their original form with the stage performers in Great Britain, such recordings were only occasional in the U.S., and the idea of putting together an album of several 78 rpm records containing a show's major songs as performed on-stage was relatively new. On the day that Oklahoma! opened, the American record industry was closed down by a musicians strike but shortly after Decca Records settled with the union, company president Jack Kapp brought the Oklahoma! principals together in the recording studio and cut 12 of the show's songs for a six-record album. The result, Oklahoma! [Original Broadway Cast], was a commercial smash that forever changed the record business and led to the domination of record sales by the cast and soundtrack albums for the next 20 years.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann