On March 31, 1943, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” opened on Broadway and though McAlester’s own Ridge Bond was not an original cast member, he would later take over the leading role of Curly to become the only Oklahoman to star in both the original Broadway and international touring production of “Oklahoma!” with 1,500 performances in all. No one has or ever will play the role of Curly McLain more than Ridge Bond.
Ridgely McClure "Ridge" Bond was born in McAlester on July 12, 1922. He attended the University of Tulsa, where he played a leading role in the play “Green Grow the Lilacs”, by fellow Oklahoman Lynn Riggs, which was later adapted as “Oklahoma!” Bond served in the U.S. Navy in World War II. After his discharge, he headed to New York City and in 1946 he joined the Broadway cast of “Oklahoma!” taking over as Curly from Howard Keel. He not only was a member of the original Broadway production but also toured with the show and played the role in the 1951 and 1953 Broadway revivals. After “Oklahoma!” closed Bond retired from acting and joined American Family Life Insurance Company as a district coordinator in the Tulsa office.
“Oklahoma!” officially came to Oklahoma in November 1946. This performance at Oklahoma City's Municipal Auditorium set attendance records despite foul weather, including sleet and snow. A lavish opening night was hosted by Governor Robert S. Kerr and in attendance were author Lynn Riggs, Rodgers, Hammerstein and some Broadway team members. An all-out push was made at the time by then-McAlester attorney Carl Albert to ensure that Ridge Bond, “McAlester’s native son” be allowed to perform the role of Curly for the first “Oklahoma!” staging in the state of its namesake. As Bond had just recently joined the Broadway cast the night of the Oklahoma premier, Bond was at work at the St. James Theater in New York City. This might have been just as well for the night of the opening a bus carrying McAlester area residents to Oklahoma City broke down in route and arrived only in time for the second act.
In 1953, Bond came to the aid of his fellow McAlester High School graduate, state representative (and later Governor) George Nigh to promote the show’s title song in becoming the new Oklahoma state song. On the first day the legislature was discussing Nigh’s bill to change the state’s song some serious opposition was developing so fortuitously Nigh tabled the discussion to the following day and overnight assembled Ridge Bond, now living in Tulsa with his theater costumes in tow, the Oklahoma College for Women chorus, who had recently just learned the Broadway show music, and a piano brought to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from a downtown Oklahoma City music store. The following morning the legislation was brought back up. Nigh simply turned the floor over to Ridge Bond and the chorus. They sang, legislators cheered and the bill was passed. “Oklahoma” became our new state song.
In 1955 when the role of Curly was being cast for the motion picture “Oklahoma!” Ridge Bond was considered on the short list but the role was instead given to Gordon MacRae.
In 1991 Bond was presented the Lynn Riggs Award by Rogers State University. In 1993, the Oklahoma Heritage Association named Bond an Ambassador of Goodwill and he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Bond was married to restoration artist Maxine Vincent for 54 years, and they had two children. Bond died in Tulsa on May 6, 1997 at the age of 74.