'Oklahoma!' As Romantic as a Ride to the Dance in a Yellow Surrey with the Fringe on Top!
I am constantly amazed as the way directors use the intimate, theater in the round, at The Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre and this exuberant production of “Oklahoma!” celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical is no exception.
As soon as the dancing begins, this production shows that indeed the entire show of “Oklahoma!” with magnificent, definitive songs like "Oh what a Beautiful Morning" and "People Will say We're in Love,” was meant to be a ballet. This especially rings true during the memorable ballet sequence at the end of Act I which featured tow amazing dancers Benita Bünger (Dream Laurey), Lucas Segovia (Dream Curly) and Alejandro Fonseca (Dream Jud).
It’s farmers against cowboys in this late 19th century musical adventure that follows two love stories. Curly McClain, a cowboy, wants desperately for Laurey Williams to love him, but her stubbornness has her taking her family’s farmhand, Jud Fry, to the big dance instead – and Jud has some serious issues. Laurey’s Aunt Eller can’t understand why her niece is so reluctant to give Curly a chance and has big reservations when Jud gets involved. At the same time, cowboy Will Parker is in love with Ado Annie Carnes and will do whatever it takes to win her over. However, Ado Annie also has eyes for a Persian peddler, Ali Hakim.
The classic western takes a few turns and includes some bumps in the road for the main characters while unfolding into the direction of what becomes a most memorable ending. “Oklahoma!” is an entertaining story that has a bit of everything – jealousy, love, romance, humor and heroes. But in this stage adaptation, it’s the fantastic dance numbers that impress the most.
The dance sequences so beautifully choreographed by Alex Sanchez (and there are many by the entire cast) are some of the best and most exciting dance numbers I've seen in recent musicals. Each number make use of every aisle and every inch of the stage from opening number to rousing finale.
Brandon Springman is mesmerizing in the lead role as Curly while Jennie Sophia plays his romantic interest, Laurey, with great intelligence and romance. Both have really wonderful voices that are accompanied by thoughtful, realistic acting choices that make you fall in love with this couple and understand why they both let their headstrong pride get in the way of what is obvious to everyone else in town as a love affair that is meant to be. Shea Coffman is very strong as Jud Fry and can be flat out frightening at times while Michelle Lauto really gets to show off her gifted voice as Ado Annie. The talent goes on and on as Evan Tyrone Martin is very funny and likeable as Ali Hakim and Aaron Umsted steals several scenes with his electrifying dancing prowess as Will Parker.
There is also a modern-day relevance that pops out at the audience when Laurey complains to her Aunt Eller (played with great wry humor by Susan Moniz) that Jud, the moody, porn-obsessed, farmhand is staring her down at breakfast every day and generally scaring her when her aunt replies that she is being too sensitive and should ignore him. But Judd's behavior is pure sexual harassment by a man with mental health issues who is not only capable of violence and in the cathartic last scene, acts out with both sexual violence against Laurie and a murder attempt towards her beau Curly.
The entire cast is full of rich singing voices and the sing-along at the end of the show to the title song "Oklahoma!" really sums up the lively spirit of this beautifully sung, acted, and danced production of a classic.
I highly recommend this fast paced but satisfying and exciting production for all members of your family to experience the magic and wonder of one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great American works.