Review by Danny Gaisin
Some interesting facts about the ‘Sooner’ State. Oklahoma was the first territory to hold a land Rush in 1889. It received Statehood in 1907 and was the first State to utilize parking meters (1935) and the first one to erect a ‘Yield’ sign in 1950. The motivation for mentioning Oklahoma’s myriad originals is because “OKLAHOMA” was the first collaboration of Rogers and Hammerstein in1943; heralding the golden age of Broadway musicals. Take Riggs’ book ‘Green Grow the Lilacs’; add in superb music and amazing lyrics and no wonder the result is still a sellout 74 years later!
City Centre Musical Productions has had a string of O.A.R. successes over the years and that is probably due to the organization’s dedicated professionalism. Direction; casting; costumes; set design and orchestral implementations are always comprehensive, thorough and meticulous…their staging of OKLAHOMA is no exception and has the added benefit of being fun; both for cast & crew as well as audience. Having fun is O.K. (pun intended) and when performers exude such a feeling; one can’t help but react accordingly – we did! Hell, this scribe actually sang along with those amazingly poetic lyrics; albeit probably off-key.
Just as a conductor bears responsibility for a concert; a director has the same onus for a play. Michael MacLennan has done a yeoman job of re-bringing this icon to the stage. His directorial hand can be seen in every detail and his segues into his choreographic numbers are smooth and seem almost natural. His creativity has resulted in something that is contagiously cute; funny; tuneful; and visually appealing. From the opening ‘Beautiful Morning’ number to the closing title anthem; the pace is constant and continually holds one’s attention.
There are two love stories in the plot about the transition from Territory to Statehood, and the integration of agriculturalist with the original cattlemen. Cowboy Curly loves farm girl Laurey; and Will Parker is enamoured of gadabout Ado Annie. The audience meets Curly as he arrives at Laurey’s Aunt’s farm singing about what a ‘Beautiful Morning’ it is. This melodic & popular song has been a longtime favorite even without it’s context, but in this instance; it sets up the audience for a feeling of optimism that carries throughout the play. Matthew Butler is a charmer as Curly; his love interest is Raylin Marcotte who possesses an amazingly clear and full-range soprano voice. Both these leads have innate personalities that project across the footlights as well as thespian skills equal to their vocal abilities.
The secondary duo of Malakai Vieira and Heidi Cyfko are outstanding as a team. When Viera’s ‘Will Parker’ returns from “Kansas City’ and iterates what is up-to-date therein, the solo and subsequent chorus number is a show-stopping moment. Their duet about ‘All or Nothin’ is only outdone by Curly & Laurey telling each other how to prevent gossipy”♫ People saying we’re in Love♪ ”. Viera and Cyfko both sell their solos as well as their duets.
A surprisingly different directorial take is in the portrayal of villain Jud Fry. Adam Holroyd brings an almost sympathetic reading to his character, especially with the emphatic lighting used during his ‘Lonely Room’ solo.
The costuming; clever set design and construction thereof, capture the essence of the turn-of-the-century West. Glen Pringle’s stage managing is spot-on; Bob Hardinge’s 14-piece orchestra is faultless and never overpowers.
OKLAHOMA is a big creation; and infectiously entertaining. Hopefully, the FOH staff won’t shush folks for clapping along with the performers doing the ‘Farmer and The Cowman’ number. And surely, no one will be offended if the audience joins in for the finale and the “♫ Yip a yo e yay – – –OKLAHOMMMMMA,!!! “O.K.” ♪ ”. It’s at the Meadowvale Theatre until Sunday, March 26th.