Review Roundup: OKLAHOMA! at Arena Stage


There is much speculation about the Arena Stage production of OKLAHOMA! making a transfer to the Great White Way in spring of 2011. Arena Stage begins a new life in its renovated home at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest D.C., opening its inaugural season with a classic American musical that similarly embraces life on a new frontier. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! is the first production at the Mead Center and features an all-star cast under the direction of Artistic Director Molly Smith. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! runs October 22-December 26, 2010 in the Fichandler Stage.

Inspired by the toughness of the prairie, Smith sets her production in the robust world of territory life filled with a dynamic cast as rich and complex as the tapestry of America itself. D.C. area favorite E. Faye Butler (Arena Stage's Crowns, Ain't Misbehavin') stars as Aunt Eller, with Eleasha Gamble (Broadway's Ragtime, 110 in the Shade) as Laurey, Aaron Ramey (Broadway's Curtains, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Jud and Nicholas Rodriguez (Broadway's Tarzan) as Curly, who played Fabrizio last season in The Light in the Piazza, also directed by Smith. Cody Williams makes his Arena Stage debut as Will Parker alongside June Schreiner as Ado Annie Carnes, a high school junior at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, who was discovered in last summer's Arena Stage Academy Musical Theater Training Company. With Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless music, Smith's Oklahoma! celebrates the vigor of America's pioneering spirit with athletic dance and boot-stomping energy.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: The disparate pieces of Smith's "Oklahoma!" converge so potently that you can't help seeing the hopeful future in which Curly and Laurey and Eller and Annie believe. With the nation nursing a hangover from all the antics of this vituperative election cycle, it's an ideal moment to reflect on what other kind of future these characters might have been contemplating.

Terry Ponick . Washington Times: In any event, Arena's new production of Oklahoma! is an intimate, refreshing, and uplifting version of the musical that arguably kicked off Broadway's Golden Age. It's a great way for Arena to kick off its renewed presence as what is now, hands down, Southwest DC's signature architectural and theatrical landmark.

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