Claremore celebrates musical’s 75 year anniversary with exhibit, special viewing

A photograph of the crowd outside the Southwestern Premiere of the film Oklahoma! on June 7th, 1956 at the Rialto. Shirley Jones at Premiere, 1956-06-07. Robert M. McCormack photographic studio archive, 1935-2000, 2008.049.6.movie.052.

The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections & University Archives.

It's a musical that has captivated theater-goers for generations–with a special Claremore connection.

This year will mark the 75 year anniversary of the musical Oklahoma!, based on Green Grow the Lilacs, written by Claremore’s own Lynn Riggs.

And Claremore is going all out.

The Claremore Museum of History in partnership with the Cherokee Nation presents the 75 Year Anniversary Celebration of Oklahoma! program series and our exhibition Beyond Realism: The Cherokee Who Brought Oklahoma To The World," said MoH Executive Director Andy Couch. "We invite the public to join us for the first of a three-event program series on July 31, commencing at 6 p.m. with the grand opening of the renovated Lynn Riggs exhibit at the Claremore Museum of History.

He said hors d’oeuvres will be provided by the Hammett House and the exhibit will be followed with an exclusive showing of the film Oklahoma! at the Cinema 8 Theatre in Claremore at 7:30 p.m.

"Thanks to the collaboration with B&B Theatres admittance to the exhibition is free and there will be a $5 charge for viewing the film. Tickets to the film will be limited and available on a first-come-first-served basis," he said.

“We are proud to present the 75 year Celebration of Oklahoma! program series in partnership with the Cherokee Nation” says Hays Gilstrap, Chairman of the Claremore Museum of History. “We greatly appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Cherokee Nation in this endeavor and are proud of the work done by the MoH’s Event Committee along with the foresight, creativity and imagination of our Executive Director, Andy Couch to create this wonderful program series for our community.”

"On display will be two Todd-AO 70 mm projectors that originally came from Hollywood, California and were mandatory in order to show the film Oklahoma! during the initial release. This is truly an incredible opportunity to showcase the projectors as part of our renovated exhibition and would not have been possible without the loan from Ben and Catherine Kehe," said Couch. "Ironically, the first theatre that Ben was a projectionist at in Tulsa was the Rialto, the theatre that hosted the Southwestern Premiere of Oklahoma!."

Also on display will be the original 70mm film reel from Oklahoma! and a new acquisition from the Lynn Riggs Family Collection that includes Lynn’s personal library, correspondence, photographs and other important artifacts. The Department of Special Collections at the University of Tulsa has loaned the museum several artifacts from the Lynn Riggs Papers. A new digital interactive display will feature items in the museum’s archive and material from the Western History Collection at the University of Oklahoma.

Couch says one very unique item from the Groendyke Auto Collection will be on display, too.

MoH, and all of Claremore, won't be limiting the celebration to just one night, though.

In fact, the museum has a full roster of festivities planned:

July 31, Exhibition Opening and Film Screening

The grand opening of the renovated Lynn Riggs exhibit (Beyond Realism: The Cherokee Who Brought Oklahoma To The World) at the Claremore Museum of History (The MoH) at 6PM. Hors D’Oeuvres will be provided by the Hammett House. The exhibit will be followed by an exclusive showing of the film Oklahoma! at the Cinema 8 Theatre in Claremore at 7:30 p.m.

August 31, The Box Social and Lynn Riggs Birthday Celebration

This event will take place at 5:30PM at the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center, Rogers State University and will include dinner and entertainment. Tickets will soon be available. At 12PM RSU will be hosting a lecture by Tim Carter the author of Oklahoma! The Making of an American Musical, more details to follow.

September 15, Celebration of Cherokee Arts & Culture

This event will be held at The MoH and in Gazebo Park. It will include the Claremore Grand Opening of the Pocahantas Club exhibit and Cherokee artists will be invited to show and offer their artwork while children will learn how to play stickball and engage in other authentic Cherokee activities. Free to the Public!