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Marriott Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma!’ a good time not to be missed

“Oklahoma!” is one of the true American musical theater classics. To mark the 75th anniversary of the musical, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire has mounted an impressive and entertaining production.

Marriott Theatre always produces compelling and vibrant musical renditions, and “Oklahoma!” is no exception. Plain and simple, Marriott’s “Oklahoma!” is pure entertainment in its truest sense.

Featuring a memorable score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” “Oklahoma!” broke box office records when it opened on Broadway in 1943.

For the Lincolnshire mounting, Marriott has recruited the brilliant directing talents of Jeff Award-winner Aaron Thielen, awe-inspiring choreography vision of Jeff Award-nominee Alex Sanchez, and stellar music direction and orchestrations by Jeff Award-winner Ryan T. Nelson. In particular, Sanchez’s choreography and the talents of the dance ensemble amaze from start to finish – some of the best work seen in the Chicago area in years.

Set in the Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the 20th century, “Oklahoma!” tells the story of two love triangles – one between farmgirl Laurey, cowboy Curly, and hired hand Jud Fry; the other between attention-craving Ado Annie, lovestruck but dimwitted cowboy Will Parker and traveling peddler Ali Hakim.

As Curly, Brandon Springman is the quintessential musical theater leading man. He is classically handsome and has a lyrical tenor voice as smooth as silk. Opposite him as Laurey, Jennie Sophia is not only physically beautiful, but possesses a voice that lulls one into dreamland. As villainous Jud Fry, Shea Coffman provides just the right blend of grizzly, surly and conflicted.

Providing comedic fodder in supporting roles are Aaron Umsted as Will Parker, Michelle Lauto as Ado Annie, and Even Tyrone Martin as Persian peddler Ali Hakim. Umsted is a true triple threat, proving himself as a talented actor, singer and dancer. Lauto is extremely effective in her role. Martin is a comic revelation, putting the audience in stitches from his very first entrance.

While the singing and acting put on by the entire ensemble are impressive and entertaining, it is the dance that puts this production over the top. Both the danced “Overture” and the “Out of Dreams Ballet” that take place at the end of Act 1 are amazing – sheer poetry in motion. In particular, Lucas Segovia as Dream Curly and Benita Bünger as Dream Laurey stand out in a strong dance ensemble that is second to none.

Rounding out the cast are Susan Moiz (Aunt Eller), Terry Hamilton (Andrew Carnes), Elizabeth Telfod (Gertie Cummings), Brandon Block, Miranda Borkan, DeShawn Bowens, Nick Cosgrove, Maxwell J DeTogne, Alejandro Fonseca, Noah Gouldsmith, Autumn Hlava, Maya Lou Hlava, Jeff Max, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Madison Piner, Zachary Porter, Ken Singleton, Kyra Sorce, Adrienne Storrs, Steven Strafford and Jessica Wolfrun.

Set designer Kevin Depinet and properties designed by Sally Weiss have a keen attention to detail that truly help the audience disappear into the story – from the rustic wood structures to the authentic livestock feed being used on stage. Costume design by Brian Hemesath is spot on.

If you are a musical theater lover, Marriott’s “Oklahoma!” is not to be missed. It is a must-see entertainment event.