The Norton Singers current production is Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma". Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs, the show is about the high spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys where two stubborn prairie kids, Curly, a cowboy and Laurey, a farm girl, live. They refuse to admit their true feelings for each other and eventually fall in love. The show originally opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943 and ran for 2212 performances. Director Ted Mitchell infuses this show with high energy from start to finish while musical director Anthony Torelli keeps the large orchestra and huge cast in perfect harmonic blend all night long and the choreography by Judee and Courtney Bottomley is perfect especially the dream ballet segment which enthralls you with its beauty and intensity. This is a first rate production of a classic musical and it is rewarded with a standing ovation at the close of the show.
Ted blocks his 38 member cast beautifully to keep the show moving constantly from one scene to another while Tony keeps the tempos of the songs upbeat and never dragging. His orchestra sounds like a Broadway ensemble and the strings are exquisite with their perfect blend with no screeching heard at all. Judee and Courtney's dances are fantastic and the ballet segment shows how a dream can turn into a nightmare and the action is done all by the dancing of the main characters. They also found good male dancers for the "Kansas City" dance and the "Farmer and Cowman" dance. The combination of two step, square dance, ballet and other dance steps are amazing and the entire cast shines in their dance numbers. The costumes by Barbara and Ida May Molitor and Jodi Pardy are gorgeous, colorful and plentiful and the sets are easily moved on and off during the show, keeping transitions running smoothly. The lighting and sound are topnotch and add the finishing touches to an outstanding presentation.
The two leads in this show are perfectly cast with their fabulous voices, impeccable acting and their strong dancing ability. Ken Butler is not only dashing as Curly but gives the role the needed humor to make him a likeable cowboy. His strong voice sells his opening number, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin" as well as "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and his lead vocal in "Oklahoma". His powerful stage presence helps to make Curly a memorable character in this show. Carey Ann Fisher, a lovely brunette, is splendid as Laurey. She gives the character a backbone so she is able to stand up for herself as well as being sweet and tender when needed. Carey's soprano voice is superb and she soars off the charts on the duet with Curly, "People Will Say We're in Love" and her solos "Many a New Day" where she sings that it will be a long time before she finds the man she will love and "Out of My Dreams" where she will find him in her dreams which leads into the dream ballet segment which she does her own dancing wonderfully, too.
The supporting cast is equally talented, led by Linda Bardwell's feisty and lovable Aunt Eller. She shows the strength that was needed back in 1907 when a woman had to be strong to survive in the wilderness. Linda's mother earth character gets to have fun during the show in the auction scene, "The Farmer and Cowman" song where she points her gun at everyone to stop a fight and her flirting scenes with Curly to make him realize he is in love with Laurey. The funniest pair of charcters in this show are Will Parker and Ado Annie. Kevin Mischley is a hoot as the dumb country bumpkin who has trouble keeping his girlfriend in line. His facial expressions when he is wooing Annie are right on the money and his singing and dancing are excellent in "Kansas City" and "All or Nothing" duet with Courtney. Kevin handles this comic part with ease after playing the sinister and evil Jekyll and Hyde last year. Courtney Bottomley is fabulous as Ado Annie. She is a triple threat performer and this role really shows off her talent. Courtney is hilarious in "Cain't Say No" (a real trouper she kept in character when the show was stopped for a medical emergency and picked up during the reprise of this number as if nothing happened, proving the old adage the show must go on to be absolutely true.) She makes all her one liners count and leaves the audience laughing all night long. Glenn Fournier plays Ali Hakim the womanizing peddler who likes to flirt and mess around with every pretty girl he meets. He wears a loud blue plaid suit which is a hoot he gets to sing "It's a Scandal, It's a Outrage" where he complains about having to marry a girl because of her father's shotgun. Ali's flirting ways catch up to him when he marries the constantly laughing, Gertie Cummings who pursued Curly throughout the show. Jen Mischely who is 6 months pregnant with Warren, acts and even dances up a storm in this show. (Best wishes to Kevin, Jen and Warren on their acting family.) The villain of the show is smarmy, evil murdering, stalker, Jud Fry. Peter Molitor fits this role perfectly. He scares the audience during the show and he gets to show off his powerful voice in Jud's soliloquy "Lonely Room" where he is sick of looking at his naked women photos on the walls and wants to get a real woman instead. It is a very powerful song and its intensity is felt from it.
Ty Waterman plays Annie's father who threatens Ali with a gun, argues with Will over his engagement to his daughter and sings of his dislike for the cowboys in "The Farmer and Cowman" song. Don Powers as Skidmore and Bob Molitor as Cord Elam add some comic moments to the show in the trial scene in the second act. One of the standout dancers in this show is Joseph Arsenault as Slim. Having played Will Parker in his high school production a couple of years ago, Joseph handles the role and dance steps with the ability of a well seasoned pro. Kudos to all the dancers who handled the difficult moves with ease. So for an excellent rendition of a classic musical, be sure to catch "Oklahoma" at Norton Players. Tell them Tony sent you.