Litt, N. J. (2021). "Many A New Day": The Uncanny In Oklahoma!’s Reproductions. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.2417
This paper explores the ways in which the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! continuously appeals to contemporary theater artists, scholars, and audiences. I analyze two recent revivals of the musical alongside the original production with a focus on performance aesthetics, textual and historical investigation, and American politics and nationalism. I unpack Oklahoma!’s racialized, ethnicized, and gendered origins and track its evolution within revivals. I argue that in comparing the musical with its revivals. What emerges are that revivals of Oklahoma! are uncanny, a term borrowed from Freud’s 1919 essay The Uncanny and tied to Bertolt Brecht’s theatrical concept Verfremdungseffekt. In doing so, this paper highlights how Oklahoma!’s familiar associations are made strange when revivals contend with the musical’s violent past. I argue it is precisely due to the uncanny effect of Oklahoma! that artists, scholars, and audiences are drawn to the musical, even all these decades after it was first staged.