Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Oklahoma!"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Oklahoma!"

Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by Richard Rodgers
Based on the book "Green Grow The Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs
Directed by Dan Moore
Choreography by Susannah Burley

Set Design by John Prendergast
Costume Design by Chace Simmonds-Frith
Lighting & Sound Design by Deni Waitr
Stage Manager Deni Waitr

Laurey Williams............Christine MacDougall (Johanna Perri)
Curly McLain...............................................Christian T. Potts
Aunt Eller Murphy...............Ann Carpenter (Ronnie Springer)
Ado Annie Carnes.....................Gwen Gilmartin (Sue Mulrey)
Will Parker...........................................................Scott Alden
Jud Frye.............................................................Sidney Sibley
Ali Hakem..............................Daniel Kirichok (Michael Shea)
Dream Laurie.................Christine MacDougall (Ashley Pope)
Andrew Carnes.....................................................Phil Paquet
Gertie Cummings.................Marie Martin (Lana Quenneville)
Cord Elam............................Gary Ciambrone (Michael Shea)
Ike Skidmore...................................................Zack Methven
Slim..............................................................Gary Ciambrone
Dream Girls
Gwen L. Gilmartin, Ashley Pope, Johanna Merz, Monica Moran
Ensemble
Ben Doherty, Corinne Duggan, Maria Matta, Monica Moran, Elaine Witham, Maureen Marinelli, Greg Caruso, Jeanette Jackson, Dyan Madrey, Gerry Paquet, Jom Michel, Patti Corbett, Sandy Deneault, Paul Hourihan, Jeannie Lennon, Paula Murphy, Susan O'Day, Susan Baker, Jim Corbett

The Band
Piano..........Dan Moore
Bass...........Ben Zwerin
Drums...Michael Quinn

The Hard-Line Production of "Oklahoma!" at French's Opera House is a charming, unpretentious blast from the past that easily pleases its uncritical audience. At my cabaret-style table I was flanked by an actor and professional ballroom-dancer, there to applaud a fellow thespian, and a family up from Pennsylvania to watch their son-in-law do a bit-part turn. And the production, fifty years after it made theatrical history, allows a fresh look at this quaint, enduring classic.

There is still a breath of operetta in "Oklahoma!" that calls for people to stand and sing, full-out and full-throat, then to clear the way when the dance crew or the comedians take center stage. There are crowd-scenes and intimate scenes, choral extravaganzas and quick bits of dramatic plot --- and each a separate turn. And, for people who may think the movie was the definitive production, there are as many surprises in the old war-horse as there might be in several outstanding performances.

For one thing, the character of Jud Frye --- rival for the heroine's affections, and villain of the piece --- turns out to be much more complicated than you'd think. Sidney Sibley takes advantage of sympathetic speeches to make this dark figure less a buffoon than an outcast, certainly suspicious, but perhaps with good reason. Oscar Hammerstein II was always at pains to make such figures human beings rather than villains --- consider similar types in "Carousel" and "Me & Juliet". Sibley's Jud is a mean, violent man, but his inevitable sudden death comes as an unexpected shock.

The production at French's Opera House features a sort of "two-platoon system" for half a dozen roles. The night I was there, it was the sweet, clear-voiced Christine MacDougall playing the undecided Laurey who must decide between farm-hand Jud Frye and Curly, the uppity cowpoke, played by Christian T. Potts. They spend a lot of time trying to pretend indifference to one another, but true love conquers all.

There's a counterpoint love triangle here as well, with Ado Annie (the "Girl That Cain't Say No") undecided between the gullible cowpoke Will Parker and the philandering peddler Ali Hakim. This was also a neatly filled comic trio, with Scott Alden capturing both Will's sincerity and his charming loutishness, Gwen Gilmartin puzzled by Annie's ambiguous morality, and Daniel Kirichok trying every way to have his fling but fend off matrimony.

"Oklahoma!" is known as the musical that injected Agnes deMille's serious dancing into the plot, and Choreographer Susannah Burley has done what she could with a community theater cast plus a few ballet students to maintain this part of the show. The dances, like Director Dan Moore's piano accompaniment, are serviceable rather than outstanding.

But that's not the point. This is a huge cast --- 35 or 40 --- of cowboys and farmers, singers, dancers, actors and comedians, who love theater enough to go from set-crew to chorus, seamstress to dancer in front of friends and family. And that's what theater is all about. Oh, what a beautiful mornin'!

Love,
===Anon.


"Oklahoma!" (till 13 May)
HARD-LINE PRODUCTIONS/RIVERSIDE THEATRE WORKS
French's Opera House, 45 Fairmount Avenue, HYDE PARK
1(617) 361-7024

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