• Broadway Beat

Elderly Hipster Proud to Say He Liked "Oklahoma!" Before It Was Cool

by Rebecca Hirschhorn. @rebeccachelseah.

QUEENS, New York – After the upsurge of young theatregoers expressing interest in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! caused by the 2019 revival of the classic musical, some are skeptical of the integrity of these new fans. Retired clock repairman and renowned theatre hipster Norman Jenkins expressed his disdain for these young new arrivals, professing his expertise as an original fan of the musical, before it was cool.


“Most of these kids don’t even know who Agnes DeMille is,” said Jenkins, who has enjoyed the theater longer than all of those young folks. “I knew her from back in her American Ballet Theatre days. Really some of her older stuff is tremendous. Unfortunately she went kind of mainstream after that.”


Jenkins directed us to his neighbor at Redtree Assisted Living, Roy Dubanowski, who was excited to show off his curated collection of memorabilia. Dubanowski started with his program from the show’s 1943 New Haven out-of-town tryout.


“None of us had ever seen anything like it,” he shared, sipping his mug of kombucha and adjusting his waxed moustache thoughtfully. “It was an excellent way to escape all that ghastly Nazi talk on the radio. Kids these days can’t understand that sort of thing.”


He also has programs from the ’43, ’51, and ’79 Broadway opening nights, but seemed less interested in showing us those. Revivals, Dubanowski believes, are just an opportunity for kids to pretend to be interested in something after the real fans have really come and gone. Jenkins and Dubanowski aren’t the only members of their close circle who got a leg up on today’s young Oklahoma! fanbase.


“The film wasn’t bad, but that was when the show started getting a bit too ‘trendy’ for me,” concurred Jenkins’ wife, Ethel. “The 2019 revival kids are a whole new level. Sure, they can maybe name you a Shirley Jones, but they don’t remember the original Laurey, you know, uh, that spectacular girl...what was her name? I forget everyone’s names. But she was spectacular. All these new, bandwagon Oklahoma! fans don’t know what they’re missing. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”


When asked to share his thoughts on the recent production itself, Jenkins expressed distaste with the lack of mawkish country-western conventions, which he believes to be the heart of the show. “Why would you ask if I’ve seen it? Of course I didn’t. Did I mention I saw the show in New Haven?”