Overall, my favorite ''Oklahoma!'' was that marvelous multi-ethnic one at Arena, directed by Molly Smith. Led by a Latino Curly (Nicholas Rodriguez) and African-American Laurey (Eleasha Gamble), it should've moved to NYC and played Circle in the Square.
I couldn't agree more. The Arena Stage OKLAHOMA! was one of the finest productions I have ever seen. I was so glad that Arena brought it back the next year for an encore engagement.
The multi-ethnic casting is what made it for me. Anyone either knowing Oklahoma history or reading Arena's program notes knew what was in store. Yes, they'd "soon be livin' in a brand new state, brand new state..." But "...gonna treat you great"? Hardly. The first laws passed by the newly formed Oklahoma legislature in 1907 mandated racial segregation and disenfranchised most blacks.
Seeing the cast optimistically sing the title song while many in the audience knew what was really in store was similar to my reaction to the ending of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, where only the audience knew that the optimism of the threesome would be short-lived.