'Oklahoma!' charms audiences at Marriott Theatre
It isn’t surprising that the return of a Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic will attract quite the crowd in Lincolnshire since the Marriott Theatre last presented “Oklahoma!” 25 years ago.
Now celebrating the show’s 75th anniversary, the theater understands they don't only have loyal fans to impress. There's a new generation of theatergoers as well. Since “Oklahoma!” was a big hit in the beginning of modern Broadway history, how does it hold up in today’s world?
The show stays true to the original plot of the 1943 musical with farm girl, Laurey (Jennie Sophia) and cowboy, Curly (Brandon Springman), falling in love as changes (and other romantic tales) occur in rural America. It sounds like a simple pioneer tale, but the powers of Rodgers and Hammerstein are what make the story memorable with unforgettable songs like “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” and “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” to capture this particular era.
Of course, it isn’t a true Marriott Theatre production unless the in-the-round stage is used to its best advantage. One of the best details is the burlap-covered walls turning into projections of meadows and mountains to showcase the true beauty of the American frontier (thanks to projection designer Anthony Churchill and set designer Kevin Depinet).
From there, you're in for a treat of watching your favorite songs performed by a stellar cast from Will Parker (Aaron Umsted) showing off his rope tricks to the beautiful "Out of My Dreams—Ballet" sequence. Big company numbers like "The Farmer and the Cowman" and "Oklahoma!" light up the entire room with the overall incredible choreography by Alex Sanchez.
There still remains the challenge of updating this “period piece” without changing the script and director Aaron Thielen acknowledges that by bringing more backstory to the characters. We learn that Laurey became an orphan at a young age and that’s why she lives with her strong-willed Aunt Eller (Susan Moniz). Ado Annie (Michelle Lanto) isn’t scared to challenge her suitors in a comedic love triangle either. While there are other moments that still feel outdated, they've gone about as fur as they can go for now.
We recommended the show for ages 10 and up, so take the whole family and experience the beauty of "Oklahoma!" that continues to win the hearts of beloved musical theater fans.