Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of "Green Grow the Lilacs" at the Mayan Theatre, Hill at 11th St., Los Angeles, CA
Poster for Federal Theatre Project presentation of "Green Grow the Lilacs" at the Mayan Theatre, Hill at 11th St., Los Angeles, CA

Lynn Riggs's script for Green Grow the Lilacs provided the basic characters, plot, and much of the "external image arrow-10x10.png" or dialogue for Oklahoma! Lilacs was produced by the Theatre Guild in January 1931, with Franchot Tone as Curly and June Walker as Laurey. Lee Strasberg, an actor of Jewish heritage, (who would later that year co-found the Group Theatre) played the Peddler! In his notes, Riggs states that the play’s subtitle could be “An Old Song,” although his original title for the play was “The Chivaree.”

Riggs infuses the play with numerous folk songs, all of which he says are traditional. I know a few of them, such as “Git along little dogies,” “Home on the Range,” and “Skip to My Lou.” They are integrated into the action in various ways, but always it is clear that the characters are choosing to sing a song, rather than the musical theatre convention in which the song is a heightened extension of the action but is not acknowledged as singing as such. Another strong choice, reminiscent of his contemporary playwright Eugene O’Neill, is Riggs’s attention to dialect. Clearly, it was important that he Gclub let his audience hear the speech patterns, expressions, metaphors, and style of his characters as part of their essence.

The play is set in 1900 in Indian Territory, and Riggs notes that in 1907 Oklahoma became a state by combining Indian and Oklahoma Territories. Whereas the musical sets most of its action outdoors (in front of Laurey’s farmhouse, out on the Skidmore porch), Riggs starts his play inside the living room of external image arrow-10x10.png where Laurey lives with her Aunt Eller. Most names are exactly the Goldclub Slot same, although Jud Fry is here “Jeeter” and it’s Old Man Peck who is hosting a “play party” that night.

  • These characters are all in both: Laurey, Curly, Aunt Eller, the Peddler, Ado Annie, and Jeeter (who is renamed Jud in the musical)
  • The basic plot remains: Laurey flirts with Curly, is frightened of Jeeter, and the two men have a final confrontation that results in (spoiler external image arrow-10x10.png!) Jeeter's death
  • After the wedding, the men in the community enact a "chivaree" to tease and harass the newlyweds (in the play, it is a much more menacing practice, however)

  • Riggs seasons his play with old folk-songs and ballads, which the characters sing as part of Royal1688 their realistic ordinary activities, rather than as musical-theatre expressions of inner desires.
  • Rodgers & Hammerstein expand Ado Annie into a likable secondary lead, and give her a love interest: Will Parker
  • In the final act of Green, Curly is taken off to jail after one final goodbye to his new bride; it is implied that he will be released, but there is none of the quick and easy finale of the musical


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