Fun on a Friday: If you had invested in Oklahoma.

I stumbled on an old book about Mssrs Rodgers and Hammerstein today, and found a chapter about the trials and tribulations of getting Oklahoma! off the ground.  It was a tough one to finance, with no stars and a western subject matter.  (Have we seen another cowboy musical since?)

R&H were turned down a ton, despite their previous successes.  The boys were even forced to work what they call in the book, the “penthouse” circuit, visiting the wealthy in their apartments and singing/playing numbers from the show (a custom still done today).

But finance it they finally did.

And revolutionize American musical theater they also did.

But what about those reluctant financiers?  And what about all those people that turned it down?

Well, according to this biography, a $20,000 investment in Oklahoma! eventually turned into 6.5 million.

So, all you folks out there raising money for your shows, the next time you hear, “You can never make money in the theater,” remind them about Oklahoma!.

And say, “Sometimes you can not only make money, you can make history.”

(If you’re interested in reading more about OK, click here to get the book.  It’s an inspiring read.)


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  • Jennica Deely says:


  • Yes, and what came first?

  • Jennica Deely says:

    For sure- OKLAHOMA definitely paved the way

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    But if I had invested in Oklahoma in 1943, I’d probably be dead now!

  • janiska says:

    Maybe Broadway needs more cowboy musicals.
    Nooo… Where’s my brain? Nobody needs ‘more’ anything.
    We need something NEW like “Oklahoma” was once new.

  • Rick Stutzel says:

    And The Will Rogers Follies?

  • alex says:

    how much money was 20,000 in 1943? You’d have to be really rich.
    how much is it in today’s dollars, and which show would you put that much money into today?

  • Laurent says:

    That book IS a great read! I read it about 25 years ago and nevoer forgot it. One of my fav’s on the theatre.

  • Kristopher says:

    Investors for Oklahoma may be dead, but what they helped establish changed musical theatre as we know it, and therefore lives on in any show where plot is conveyed in song.
    I’ll admit that Big River is a country show, but I’d call it a civil rights musical before a cowboy one. Perhaps the time has come for a show about civil rights AND cowboys; Brok-lahoma!: A musicalized Brokeback Mountain. (I mostly jest…)

  • Kevin Kaufman says:

    Most were mentioned except Destry Rides Again!

  • Kristopher says:

    (Did the math–$20,000 in 1943 would be just shy of a quarter of a million dollars in today’s times! To answer your question, although I know it was not directed at me, I would invest it in the show I am currently developing. 😉

  • Kevin says:

    $20,000 in the year 1943 is worth around $252,000 today according to a consumer price index. So even back then athe top 1% was getting richer!

  • Keni Fine says:

    Here’s a related anecdote… in a family I knew growing up, the patriarch started what became a huge super market chain and made a fortune in that and other ventures. He had several sons, all of whom went into business, family and otherwise, but always sought to do something ‘big’ of their own. One of the sons told a story of how a friend called him one day out of the blue and invited him to New York to see a new play in development that the friend was investing in, and even though he had never invested in Broadway or theater, he went and saw it, and decided to go in on it. I don’t recall the amount he invested, but he said it was the single best investment he ever made! The play was My Fair Lady.

  • Bryan David says:

    Dear Mr. Davenport, et al:
    If you can imagine “Oklahoma” had trouble getting ‘The Penthouse’ investors interested you can only imagine the shock & awe I’ve heard trying to get:
    “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™
    © Copyright 1996/2007
    Bryan David/Brandon Kress
    All Rights Reserved
    Talk about rejection! I remind those that are dismayed by the subject matter (Even-thou it IS a love story!) That “Sweeney Todd” featured a rather dark theme and my show doesn’t even have any cannibalism!
    But As I recall it won a Tony or two, got revived, AND then became a movie (That You Tim Burton, Johnny Depp too!)
    So I submit and wait for that one Producer with vision who is NOT afraid of the dark! Do you know one?

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