A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Oklahoma!"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark

Oklahoma!

Music by Richard Rodgers
Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the book "Green Grow The Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs
Directed by Jennifer Condon
Musical Direction by Paul Huberdeau
Choreography by Patricia Strauss

Set & Lighting Designed by Jeff Gardiner
Costume Design by Richard Itczak
Sound Design by Alex Savitzky
Assistant Stage Manager Aaron Spence
Assistant Director & Stage Manager James Tallach

Aunt Eller............Tracy Nygard
Curly................Louis Lourens
Curly................Zachary Hardy
Laurey...............Aimee Doherty
Laurey..............Kaja Schuppert
Ike Skidmore.........Rick Copeland
Fred...................Doug Gerber
Slim..............Joseph Cullinane
Will Parker...........Rob Kimeczko
Jud Fry..............James Tallach
Ado Annie Carnes.....Melissa Sousa
Ali Hakim...............Jim Jordan
Gertie Cummings...Carrie Van Meter
Ellen................Lilly Bayrock
Kate..............Jennifer O'Brien
Virginia..............Nina Brosnan
Bradyne............Jessica Shulman
Sylvie.................Eleni Kmeic
Amina......,...........Dena Landon
Aggie................Jessica Pielh
Emily.............Jennifer Markham
Mike.................Jason Gaffney
Tom...............Will Morningstar
Andrew Carnes..........Chuck Walsh
Cord Elam................Mike Ryan

BALLET
Dream Laurey...........Sara Knight
Saloon Girls
Dena Landon, Jessica Piehl, Carrie Van Meter
Bridesmaids
Lily Bayrock, Nina Brosnan, Eleni Kmiec, Jennifer Markham
Cowboys Rick Copeland, Joseph Cullinane, Jason Gaffney, Douglas Gerber

ORCHSESTRA
Keyboard......................Paul Huberdeau
Keyboards.....Connie Reisdorf/ Colleen Henry
Percussion....................Steve Jounakos
Bass...David Weisman/ Rob Orr/ Corey DiMario

When Oscar and Richard and Agnes first made "Oklahoma!" --- or REmade it, on a glass-topped table in the sumptuous vesiblule of the ladies' room at the Colonial Theatre here in Boston --- the American musical became young again, and stayed young for the next ten years. (In 1953, Rodgers and Hammerstein had five different musicals running on Broadway at the same time!) Then "Oklahoma!" became first a classic, then a cliche.
And now the team of Jennifer Condon (Director) Paul Huberdeau (Music Director) and Patricia Strauss (Choreographer) --- plus a stunning cast --- has made this youthful musical young again at The Turtle Lane Playhouse. "Yow!"

The play bristles with youthful rivalries, mirroring the division in that brand new state between cowboys and farmers --- the solution to which is for a cowboy to sell his horse and settle on the land. And in a sense, that rivalry shows up in the play's principal singers --- a blonde pair (Kaja Schuppert & Louis Lourens) play Laurey and her Curly one night while brunettes (Zachary Hardy & Aimee Doherty) take over the very next night --- and the pairs are so neatly matched that you'll have to see both teams at work (as I did!) before you decide for yourself which one wins.

But the real joy of this show is that no one in the cast stands out --- or, to put it better, Everyone does! The problem of whether Curly or Jud Fry (James Tallach) will buy Laurey's box-lunch at the social is no less important that the problem Ali Hakim the travelling salesman (Jim Jordan) has avoiding both marriage to Will Parker's (Rob Klimeczko's) somewhat roundheeled fiancee Ado Annie (Melissa Sousa) and the shotgun in the hands of Annie's father (Chuck Walsh). The several confrontations in several directions melt into one another as seamlessly as the cast of young dancers melt into scenes and then off-stage again. They are all as fresh and eager as Richard Itczak's gingham and denim costumes, as honest and direct as Jeff Gardiner's sets yet as subtly expressive as his light-plot.

For me there were little surprises scattered through what I thought was a familiar warhorse. There's a song, for instance ("It's A Scandal! It's An Outrage!") for Ali Hakim and the boys that decries the blight farmer fathers with shotguns throw overthe freedom of frontier romance. There's a song ("Lonely Room") in which James Tallach --- playing a younger, quieter, slovenly rather than dirty Jud Fry --- makes this misunderstood villain believably human.

Then there are the tiny details you might miss by seeing the show only once: when Will, newly back from the big city, whispers to the guys about the big the-ater there they call The Burlycue, three young girls at the other side of the stage turn and whisper a quick question from one to two to three, and when that question gets to Aunt Eller she simply explodes in laughter! Tracy Nygard stepped into the role when Turtle Lane regular Susan Walsh broke her foot. That makes this self-admitted "old maid" again younger than usual, but no less life-aware, no less microscopically insightful. It's she who continually insists that the subtext under Curly & Laurey's squabbling spats is their unavoidable love for each other.

And then there's the ballet.
Before "Oklahoma!" (in "Show Boat") Oscar Hammerstein II had already changed the focus of the American musical from froth and fun to drama and humanity. But Agnes DeMille's wordless dream-sequence ending the first act of "Oklahoma!" signalled a change from tap-dancing chorines to toe-shoes, and to Jerry Robbins and Bob Fosse. At Turtle Lane, Patricia Strauss has only hinted occasionally at the DeMille original (a lift that's a full-body embrace, "Rodeo"-riffs for cowboys), but she melds the slow-motion fights and lascivious sex, the conflicts in Laurey's dreaming mind, into a growing nightmare under Jeff Gardiner's reds and blacks. And only here did I notice that the music --- with violent dissonances in the "Oh What A Lovely Mornin'" notes --- reprises all the major songs, in an eerily new key.

Paul Huberdeau has good, fresh voices to work with, and he has decided to do this big, bustling show with a four-piece orchestra --- percussion, bass, keyboards and piano --- which means those voices are the stars, performing in this comfortable auditorium without any amplification. Like the early-forties crew that made theatrical history here at the Colonial, these kids have made "Oklahoma!" vibrantly young again.

"YOW!"

Love,
===Anon.

===============
FOOTNOTE:
From: Alex Savitzky alex@savitzky.com
Sent: Monday, July 14, 2003 5:19 PM
To: Jennifer Condon
Subject: Review

Jen,
The review mentioned the voices perform "without any amplification". The fact that the sound system was not even noticed is about the best compliment I could have gotten.
- Alex

From: Jennifer Condon JCondon@ctnet.com
To: "'Alex Savitzky'" alex@savitzky.com
Subject: REview

I thought that was interesting too! especially since we struggled with the blend the night before but it was a great mix on Sat. and the voices our the focus verses the sometimes overpowering "canned" sound that can sometimes happen when the band is behind or under the stage! Thanks for your considerable talents my friend!!!!
-Jen


"Oklahoma!" (11 July - 19 August)
TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
283 Melrose Street, NEWTON MA
1(617)244-0169


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