The a cappella strains of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ have thrilled audiences for 75 years and will soon return to the Great White Way. Casting is set for the upcoming Broadway transfer of Daniel Fish’s innovative new take on Oklahoma!
The production stars Damon Daunno as Curly McLain. The 34 year old actor and musician is a Glen Ridge, New Jersey native. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In addition to his portrayal as Curley in productions Off-Broadway, last year Damon won the prestigious Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical for his performance in “The Lucky Ones” and was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for the show.
Damon’s theatre credits also include Beardo in the play of the same name with the Pipeline Theatre Company in Brooklyn; Orpheus in the hit “Hadestown” with the New York Theatre Workshop; Claude in “These Paper Bullets” in both Los Angeles and in New York; the national premiere of “Brief Encounter” in Brooklyn, San Francisco and Minneapolis; Frocin in the Kneehigh Theatre’s rendition of “Tristan & Yseult” in numerous cities; Harold McClam in “Fly By Night” at the Dallas Theater Center; “The Wild Bride” in Berkeley, CA and Brooklyn, NY; the role of Jesus in “Jesus in India” in the play’s world premiere at Magic Theatre in San Francisco and Romeo in “The Last Goodbye” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. He is also a composer and multi-instrumentalist and has produced scores for short and feature length films.
Said Daunno of his role “I had seen it when I was like 8 and I thought, “I’m not really into Oklahoma!” And I thought there’s no way any production of “Oklahoma!” is ever going to cast me as Curly. But they came back and said, ‘Trust me, this is not your grandmother’s “Oklahoma!,” and then I Googled some bits of the movie and Hugh Jackman and cobbled together a video of me playing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.” I wasn’t going to try to please them, but just do it the way I do it and it turned out that’s what Daniel Fish was looking for.”
On his career, Damon said “This business can be complex, with scheduling and things like that, and you need to make decisions and keep moving. There wasn’t a time for me when I had to choose — it was just no longer an option. We went on different paths — I went to England and worked with Kneehigh (Theatre Company) for six months, and then toured Russia and Eastern Europe with a jazz singer friend — and by the time “Oklahoma!” came back, I had grown quite fond of Curly.”
The first collaboration between the Broadway golden age powerhouse duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Oklahoma! As an original production, premiered on Broadway in 1943, is largely credited with being the first musical to fully integrate its book, score and choreography towards advancing the plot.
The new production of Oklahoma! offers a startlingly contemporary re-imagining of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, featuring new arrangements and orchestrations by Daniel Kluger. Daniel Fish first mounted the production at Bard College in 2015, which was followed by a sold-out Off-Broadway run at St. Ann’s Warehouse last fall. The St. Ann’s attracted attention for its focus on the story’s darker aspects as well as stripped-down re-orchestrations of the Rodgers & Hammerstein songs and a reinterpretation of the famed “Dream” ballet.
Reviews of Daunno in his role of Curley at the St. Ann’s Warehouse were universal in their acclaim.
Sara Holdren of New York Magazine/Vulture wrote “The wiry, seductive Daunno doesn’t conform to the square, blond model of American manhood…He’s more indie-rock front man than singing quarterback, but he’s still Oklahoma!’s undeniable alpha male. If anything, Daunno’s Curly is a more complex and contemporary picture of self-satisfied masculinity. His sly, low-key swagger is instantly appealing and his pliable voice can swoop and dive, glisten and crackle and croon at will.”
Wrote The New York Times’ Ben Brantley “And how about the rockabilly inflections of our still adolescent-seeming Curly (a fabulous Damon Daunno). His performance conveyed the pure youth of this brave new world, with all its contradictions and energy.”
Previews of Oklahoma! begin on March 19th, with opening night set for April 7 at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The revival will play a limited run through September 1st.