Green Grow the Lilacs (play)

Green Grow the Lilacs is a 1930 play by Lynn Riggs named for the popular folk song of the same name.[1] It was performed 64 times on Broadway, opening at the Guild Theatre on January 26, 1931, and closing March 21, 1931. It had had an out-of-town tryout, running January 19–24, 1931, at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.. It is the basis of the 1943 musical Oklahoma!, which had a 1955 film adaptation.

Green Grow the Lilacs
First edition 1931
Written byLynn Riggs
Date premieredDecember 8, 1930
Place premieredTremont Theater, Boston
Original languageEnglish
SettingIndian Territory (Oklahoma), 1900


June Walker (Laurey Williams), Helen Westley (Aunt Eller Murphy) and Franchot Tone (Curly McClain) in the original Broadway production of Green Grow the Lilacs (1931)

The play was produced by the Theatre Guild and directed by Herbert J. Biberman. Franchot Tone portrayed cowboy Curly; June Walker was seen as his sweetheart Laurey. Tex Ritter sang four songs in the role of Cord Elam and was the understudy for the lead part as Curly, though he never had occasion to perform in that role. Theatre Guild board member Helen Westley, who had appeared as Mrs. Muskat in the original Broadway production of Ferenc Molnár's Liliom, played Aunt Eller. Lee Strasberg, later to become a teacher of method acting, played the part of the Syrian peddler. The play also toured the Midwest, and appeared at the Dallas Little Theatre during the week of March 7, 1932, and again in Dallas at the Festival of Southwestern Plays, on May 10, 1935.[2]

The 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical play Oklahoma! was based on the Riggs play. It uses newly composed songs in place of the traditional folk songs in Riggs' work, but the plot is largely similar, though the endings are different: unlike the musical, the end of Green Grow The Lilacs is left rather undecided as to Curly's trial for accidentally killing farmhand Jeeter (renamed Jud Fry in the musical).[3] In addition, the cowboy Will Parker is only referred to in the Riggs play and does not actually appear in it; therefore, the entire comic subplot involving the fifty dollars that Will must obtain in order to be able to marry Ado Annie is an invention of Hammerstein's.

Green Grow the Lilacs is today rarely performed, while Oklahoma! is a widely acclaimed and popular American musical.


  • Curly McClain
  • Aunt Eller Murphy
  • Laurey Williams
  • Jeeter Fry
  • Ado Annie Carnes
  • A Syrian Peddler
  • Cord Elam
  • Old Man Peck


Poster for a 1937 Federal Theatre Project production of Green Grow the Lilacs

Indian Territory, 1900

  • Scene 1 — The "front" or living room of the Williams farmhouse, a June morning
  • Scene 2 — Laurey's bedroom
  • Scene 3 — The smoke house
  • Scene 4 — The porch of Old Man Peck's house, that night
  • Scene 5 — The hayfield, a month later
  • Scene 6 — The "front" room, three nights later


  1. ^ Green Grow The Lilacs: A Play, Lynn Riggs, Samuel French Inc., 1931 ISBN 0-573-60962-4.
  2. ^ Lynn Riggs Archived 2009-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, pages 93-96 of A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1939, ASIN B0006AONUW.
  3. ^ Lynn Riggs: An Oklahoma Treasure Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

"Green Grow the Lilacs" at NMAI