Nowhere is that subtext more precisely evoked than in Matthew Smucker’s brilliant scenic design. The opening scene frames Curly against a rectangular cutout of the sky, evoking an iconic doorway image from John Ford’s The Searchers. A series of shifting barn door panels occasionally make way for the big blue vista of the wide-open Oklahoma sky in the background, but more often they constrict, letting just a little bit of that sign of boundless potential through. It’s haunting, thrilling design work that sees the enormously talented Smucker outdoing himself again.
The 5th Avenue’s production of Oklahoma! is a masterful, rich staging of the musical that changed musicals forever. It’s on stage now through March 4. Tickets are available for purchase online at the 5th Avenue’s website.