Choreographer recreates 'Oklahoma!' at age 91
CHICAGO (AP) — Gemze de Lappe first danced in "Oklahoma!" in 1943 as a member of the Broadway hit's first national touring company. Seventy years later, at age 91, she's still with it — choreographing a production of the musical at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
De Lappe has traveled the world over the decades working on the Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers masterpiece in places across Europe, Japan, Canada and the United States. Now she's in Chicago, trying to help director Gary Griffin recreate a version of the original "Oklahoma!" production. It opens on Saturday and runs through May 19.
In this April 26, 2013 photo, choreographer Gemze de Lappe stands by the set of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. De Lappe first danced in "Oklahoma!" in 1943 as a member of the Broadway hit's first national touring company and now 70 years later at age 91 she's choreographing a production of the musical at the Lyric. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
"If you remain true to the script and to the music it's not old fashioned at all," de Lappe said in an interview in the rehearsal room at the Lyric Opera in downtown Chicago. "It's new. It was new then and it's new now."
Griffin calls de Lappe a link to the original intent of the production, which is often considered a landmark of American musical theater. He encourages her to talk about every number, every idea that she has during rehearsals.
"This show begins and you can see she feels the depth of what's contained in all of it and recall it and gives it to all of us," Griffin said. "Having her being able to fill in those gaps and information is incredible."