RECOMMENDED Marriott Theatre 'OKLAHOMA!' Review – A Cowboy Ballet on the Plains
The sun is sweeping across the sepia toned flatlands of a newly charted United States territory. The year is 1906, the turn of the century, and newness is upon the land. This land is the plains of Oklahoma where all the characters hope for a bright, new future ahead of them. The only thing that’s not so new is OKLAHOMA! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. One of their classics from 1943, we’re taken back to a dusty, tumbleweed town.
Marriott Theatre’s Classic Love Story
Living in 1906 Oklahoma might sound boring with no internet, no phones, no televisions, but for our characters, life on the plains is anything but! There’s always work, a box hall social, and a love story right around the corner. For our protagonists Laurey and Curly, there’s an underlying romance but neither of them want to admit it!
But it seems like their romance might be dead before it even begins when Jud steps into the ring. Fraught with confusion and tough choices, OKLAHOMA! shows a snippet of life on the prairie.
Actors Delve Deep
The cast of OKLAHOMA! have dug deep into their characters’ backstories and emotions. They’ve created more depth to these hardy southern folk than usually seen in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s surface level characters.
A surefire hit is Susan Moniz playing Aunt Eller who is both lovable and terrifying at the same time.
Our main couple Laurey and Curly played by Jennie Sophia and Brandon Springman are also delightful to watch. They have a chemistry that is filled with the right amount of romantic tension and playfulness.
Though the plot of OKLAHOMA! doesn’t bode well for the lone outsider, Jud, Shea Coffman does some fantastic character work. He’s more than just a villain; he shows us a different side of Jud is perhaps just misunderstood.
The rest of our ensemble is lively and adds color when they need to, especially in their big dance numbers.
Cowboy Ballet & Country Line Dancing
There is a lot of dancing in OKLAHOMA! that’s either a huge selling point to some or a hard pass for others. Just to give a taste, there’s a fifteen minute ballet sequence at the end of Act One. So if ballet is not your thing, this might seem gratuitously long.
But if you’re one who adores dance, the choreography by Alex Sanchez will leave you thrilled. Led by Benita Bünger as Dream Laurey, we are transported into the confusion of Laurey’s mind during this number.
In addition to the ballet, there are numerous other dances with the full cast, like a line dance at the social, that are jubilant and their energy on stage is infectious!
The Life is in the Details
Sweeping around the stage are strips of burlap which at first glance just serve to make the theatre more rustic. But once the lights go down, that burlap becomes a 360 view of the Oklahoma landscape with projections.
It’s a stunning effect designed by Anthony Churchill as the sun rises and sets and turns into a starry sky.
Marriott Theatre’s OKLAHOMA! is the same show as it’s ever been, some theatre patrons remarking “it’s just like the movie.” For some, including this writer, the musical might feel dated and the plot doesn’t sit well in a modern context. OKLAHOMA! is a good pick for anyone who is absolutely in love with the classic musical and likes standard love stories. For theatre goers who don’t have an affinity for an older Rodgers and Hammerstein or are looking for something a bit less traditional, this show might not be for you.