Oklahoma native Laura Galt is a producer on The Outsiders musical. Photo by James Arlen

In March 1943, the musical Oklahoma! – based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Claremore native Lynn Riggs – made its Broadway debut. More than 2,000 performances later, the Rodgers & Hammerstein production ended its run as one of the most successful shows ever to play the Great White Way, bringing our state incalculable positive attention. 

Now, 81 years later to the month, along comes another set-in-Oklahoma musical.  Like its predecessor, it’s based on the work of a stellar writer from the northeastern part of the state. And also like Oklahoma!, it could turn out to be something very good for us all. 

The show is The Outsiders, based on the famed novel by Tulsa’s S.E. Hinton. Previews begin in New York on March 16, prior to its official opening date of April 11. And co-producer Laura Galt – who recently helped bring a number of cast and creative-team members to Tulsa for a weekend visit, including A-list producer Angelina Jolie – is enthusiastic about the connections that are already underway between the state and the show. 

“One of my goals as a co-producer is to facilitate relationships between the production and the state of Oklahoma and city of Tulsa,” she says. “I think they can elevate each other. This musical can raise visibility for the state and, hopefully, encourage tourism. Oklahoma can also be a support for the production. And then, everybody’s goal is to shepherd Susie’s legacy, which is an incredible one.” 

Back row, L-R: Daryl Tofa as Two-Bit Mathews, Joshua Boone as Dallas Winston, Jason Schmidt as Sodapop Curtis, Sky Lakota-Lynch as Johnny Cade, Brent Comer as Darrel Curtis; front: Brody Grant as Ponyboy Curtis. Photo by Miller Mobly

Susie Hinton wrote the novel The Outsiders while still a student at Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School. Her experiences of witnessing the tensions between the “greasers,” kids from the city’s poorer neighborhoods, and the “socs,” those in the school’s upper social echelons, fueled the book, which was first published in 1967. In the decades since, The Outsiders has not only become a perennial bestseller and enduring American classic; it’s also credited with starting the whole genre of young-adult fiction. 

Galt stands outside NYC’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where previews begin this month. Photo courtesy Laura Galt

In addition, The Outsiders was the basis for one of director Francis Ford Coppola’s most memorable pictures. That 1983 production, shot in Tulsa and featuring a cast full of young actors who were just beginning to taste stardom, sent a lot of viewers to libraries and bookstores to seek out the book. One of those was Laura Galt herself, who now works out of Texas but grew up in Oklahoma City and, she says, considers Tulsa a “second home.” 

“I feel like I was a very smart girl growing up,” she says with a laugh, “but I would probably call myself a reluctant reader. I was introduced to The Outsiders via the Francis Ford Coppola film, and that inspired me to look into Susie’s writings. Seeing the film inspired me to read. That’s something I’m hoping the Broadway show does for other youths.”

At the same time, she acknowledges the differences between the way stories are presented onstage and on a page. 

“In a book,” she explains, “you can take several pages to develop or describe a character or an incident. But in a musical, you don’t have the time to elaborate or narrate. You have to show who that character is via a song. So a lot of the character development and the things that drive the story are done through song and lyrics.”

An example of that can be seen and heard on YouTube, which features a sample of an Outsiders number called “Great Expectations.” It’s sung in the musical by lead character Ponyboy, played by Brody Grant.  

“It’s about these great expectations he has for his life,” says Galt of the song, “and these dreams he has for his life, and he knows the story that he wants to write for himself. But then he says, ‘Sometimes I feel like the story is writing me.’ Haven’t we all experienced that?’”

Feeling that those lyrics are examples of the universality of both Hinton’s story and its musical adaptation, she calls The Outsiders “a show for everyone – for men, for women, for all ages. I feel like there’s something in this show that every single person can relate to.”

Emma Pittman as Cherry Valance. Photo by Miller Mobly

Galt knows that both the book and the movie set some extraordinarily high standards. She’s confident, however, that the musical will be well-received by those who already love the previous two versions of The Outsiders

“I do think fans of the book and fans of the movie will be fans of the musical,” she says. “As a personal fan, it hits every mark for me. You walk away so happy and so fulfilled. You see some things online where people are worried that maybe it’s not going to stay true to the story, but it is very true to the story. It’s done wonderfully well.”

For more information about the musical, visit outsidersmusical.com. Those interested in group ticket sales can contact Galt herself at atxrandom.com.

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