Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Oklahoma!"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Oklahoma!"

Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the play "Green Grow The Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs
Directed by Robert J. Eagle
Original Dances by Agnes DeMille recreated by Gemze de Lappe
Assisted by Randall Graham
Conducted by Roy Groth

Costume Design by Dodge Costume Rental Inc.
Lighting Design by David Wilson
Sound Design by Nora Hussey
Scenic Design by Peter Doucette and Bob Moody
Porduction Stage Manager Sheron Thorp

Aunt Eller..............................................................................Ellen Hanley
Curly........................................................................................Rob Sutton
Laurey..................................................................................Kristin Gillies
Jud Fry......................................................................................Roy Earley
Will Parker............................................................................Casey Colgan
Ado Annie Carnes.........................................................Meredith Campbell
Ali Hakim......................................................................Harold W. Walker
Andrew Carnes...................................................................Dave McGuire
Gertie Cummings.................................................................Jennifer Turey
Cord Elam........................................................................J. Michael Beech
Ike Skidmore.......................................................................Nathan Croner
Laurey (Dream Ballet)...........................................................Rebecca Link
Curly (Dream Ballet).........................................................Randall Graham
Judd (Dream Ballet)......................................................Matthew Ohnemus
Fred.............................................................................Jean-Alfred Chavier
Slim...........................................................................................Erik Sachs
Kate...................................................................................Margie Quinlan
Ellen.............................................................................Suzanne O'Connor
Virginia..............................................................................Carly Johanson
Vivian ......................................................................................Katie Ford

DANCERS

Lisa Berger, Anne Beth Carey, Dorothea Garland, Darcy Hutchinson, Heidi Kellner, Taliesin Lenhart, Lisa Maietta, Susan Mantel, Vanessa McMahon, Tim McShea, Dustienne Miller, Peter Ostaltsov, Marissa Ventre, Jonathan White, Royce K. Zakery

SINGERS

Lisa Bergeron, Carl Cincotta, Anthony M. Consolo, Evan Robert Crothers, Ben Flad, Douglas Hodge, Karl Hudson, Beth Hunnefeld, Andrew Johnson, Christian Kiley, Kelly Kroll, Ryan Landry, Shonna McEachern, Stuart Milne, Karen E. Mulvey, Katherine Elizabeth Robinson, Laura Scalese, Jennifer Sheehy, Bethany Lynn Slack, Alexander Tobin, Tanisha Yancey

"Oscar never cared much about songs. He wrote stories."
So said Stephen Sondheim, who ought to know, and that becomes obvious in the stunning production of that historic musical "Oklahoma!" that will run one more weekend in Waltham. Anyone interested in the history of American theater, or just interested in good theater, should call now [ 1(781)891-5600 ] before every seat is sold. Director Robert J. Eagle and dancer/teacher/choreographer Gemze de Lappe have restored songs, reprises, and dances to what would be termed a "director's cut" in the film world, and everything comes together into what I think, considering its scope and detail, is the very best show of the 86 I have seen so far this year. See it if you can.

"Showboat" which Oscar wrote with Jerome Kern is probably that landmark switch from light revue-style musicals to heavy emphasis on plot and character, but it is certain that every song, every dance, and every bit of business in "Oklahoma!" is there for story-telling purposes. Even the philandering peddler Ali Hakim (played here by history teacher Harold W. Walker) and his comic interruption of the romance of Ado Annie (Syracuse U. student Meredith Campbell) and Will Parker (high-kicking Equity professional Casey Colgan) serves as a comic parallel for sinister Jud Fry's interruptions of the true love of Curly (Rob Sutton) and Laurey (Kristin Gillies). Moving the right couples to their ultimate marriages is the basic plot, but the details and the character traits that complicate it are carried through songs that often sound like stories themselves. (Incidentally, Sutton and Gillies are Equity Pro's, but Roy Earley playing Jud has gotten most of his stage experience with the Waltham Reagle Players.)

Here, as in later musicals ("Carousel" "Me And Juliet"), Oscar refused to write an unambiguous villain. It's true that Laurey uses Jud to make Curly jealous, and it's also true that nobody knows or likes him much. But Oscar gave him a song "Lonely Room" that he sings in his dirty smoke-house, that makes his vindictive resentment of everyone understandable, though certainly not pleasant. Here he becomes a person, not a pawn, and his final homicidal outburst (brillinatly played on all sides) becomes both frightening and sad.

But probably the most electrifying element in this production is the long, vibrant dream-ballet ending the first act, in which Rebecca Link, Randall Graham, and Matthew Ohnemus take the roles of Laurey, Curly and Jud, Jud's pinup-pictures of dancehall gals come to life, and the love-triangle conflict of love with sex is thoroughly explored by Agnes De Mille's story-telling choreography to Richard Rodgers' music. Even De Mille's ballets told stories, and this sequence could easily stand alone on a ballet stage. In Waltham, Gemze De Lappe (who danced Laurey on Broadway and supervised this new recreation of the entire show) has her dancers reproduce the upraised arms and flipping wrists of the "good girls" flitting across the stage, the contemptuous flutter of skirts for the pinups, the savage battle of the two men, and the incredible lifts that make the indecisive Laurey the fragile prize in a nightmare. Yes, the restoration of dances and songs makes the show stretch for three of the shortest, most riveting hours of theater you will ever experience.

But "Oklahoma!" isn't called a musical Comedy for nothing. Colgan's high-kicking Will is a loveable slow-witted lout, his Annie has just become gullibly attractive to everything in pants, and Curly the cowboy and Laurey the farmer are too independent-minded to settle down. And every one of them have songs and dances expressive of the bumpy nuances of true love. And Roy Groth's full orchestra gets to play eighteen Richard Rodgers melodies that are hard-wired into the American mind yet will sound new as sung and danced to by 56 dedicated performers.

That number again is [ 1(781)891-5600 ], and other people have been calling it for Your seats even as you've been reading. Maybe if you call, Now, they might let you stand in the back and find out why this show ran five years and nine months fifty years ago. You may never get a chance again.

Love,
===Anon.


"Oklahoma!" (till 22 July)
REAGLE PLAYERS
Robinson Theatre, Waltham High School, Lexington Street, WALTHAM
1(781)891-5600

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