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"Oklahoma!": Quick out of the gate

By Peter Marks

Off to what company officials say is the briskest sales pace in Arena Stage's history, the new revival of "Oklahoma!" is drawing the interest of New York producers, who are coming to Washington to scout director Molly Smith's well-received production.

Edgar Dobie, Arena's managing director, says that ticket sales are far outstripping the company's former pace-setter, a 2002 production of "South Pacific." On Saturday, when reviews of "Oklahoma!" began to appear, the box office set a new house record. "That day, we beat 'South Pacific' by 50 percent," says Dobie. He adds that while there are still tickets available, they are going fast and that Arena is mulling the possibility of an extension of the run past its scheduled closing date of Dec. 26.

Interest in a potential transfer has been stirred by Ted Chapin, president of the New York-based Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, who attended last Thursday's critics' performance of "Oklahoma!" Dobie says that the enthusiastic Chapin, whose group controls the rights to the show, mentioned Broadway. "He said, 'We have a season that's light on revivals and wouldn't it be terrific if this could be added to the roster?' "

According to Dobie, Arena has been contacted by three separate producers. "They're all serious folks and they'll all be coming down," he says.

Arena's $1.2 million production on its main Fichandler Stage is performed in the round. That configuration seems integral to Smith's staging. Broadway's only space with seating around the circumference of the stage is one of its smallest theaters: Circle in the Square. That theater is occupied by the bio-drama "Lombardi."

The talk, however, is all very preliminary for a show that just had its official opening. But it's not too soon to talk about success: Dobie says he expects Arena's box office will earn back the company's costs on "Oklahoma!" by Friday.

By Peter Marks  | November 10, 2010; 4:46 PM ET
Categories:  Peter Marks, Theater  | Tags:  arena oklahoma broadway  
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