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Skydance Television is taking TV’s interest in musicals a step further.
The indie studio is teaming with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to develop a present-day TV series inspired by the Broadway musical Oklahoma. John Lee Hancock (The Blindside) and Beka Brunstetter (This Is Us) are set to pen the adaptation, which will be set in America’s heartland and include music by the legendary team of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Skydance notes that the project — which is in development — will feature music that will be reimagined for a contemporary audience as well new tunes to support the story. A network is not yet attached; Skydance TV plans to shop the take to cable and streaming platforms.
“Oklahoma’s artistically revolutionary position in American culture has both kept it at the forefront of theatrical performances and allowed for various new innovations. This first-time ever television series will expand on the life of this remarkably resilient show,” Ted Chapin, chief creative officer at the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, a Concord company, said Tuesday in a statement. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization was acquired by Concord in July 2017.
Hancock will direct the first episode and executive produce the series alongside Brunstetter, Chapin, Concord’s Sophia Dilley and Skydance TV’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. Skydance senior vp TV Bill Bost will oversee for the company.
“Oklahoma is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and we’re honored the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Concord have entrusted us to produce this ambitious television series,” said Skydance TV president Ross. “Skydance has found the perfect architects to create this world with John Lee Hancock and Bekah Brunstetter, who will honor the spirit of the original show while creating a unique and contemporary story.”
Oklahoma was the first musical written by composer Richard Rodgers (who died in 1979) and librettist-lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (who died in 1960). It was based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in farm country outside the town of Claremore, Indian Territory, in 1906, it revolves around farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors. The Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943, and ran for 2,212 performances. In the decades since, it has been revived multiple times with national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones and Gene Nelson.
The Oklahoma take arrives as Skydance continues its scripted TV push since launching into the space in 2013. The company’s credits includes Netflix’s Grace and Frankie and Altered Carbon; Audience Network’s Condor; Amazon’s Jack Ryan; and Apple’s Foundation.
Oklahoma currently is playing in a stripped-down 75th anniversary Broadway revival at New York’s Circle in the Square. It opened earlier this month to stellar reviews, with The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney declaring the landmark a “radical makeover that brings out disturbing undercurrents.”
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