BWW Review: OKLAHOMA! at North Shore Music Theatre
It has been 25 years since Oklahoma! Has graced the stage at NSMT and all I can say is welcome back!
Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in farm country outside the town of Claremore, Indian Territory, in 1906, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLaine and the sinister and frightening farmhand Jud Fry. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.
The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions. Rodgers and Hammerstein won a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! in 1944.
This current production opened this week at North Shore Music Theatre is led by Blake Price (Curly McLaine), and Madison Claire Parks (Laurey Williams), along with Sean Bell (Will Parker), Melissa Carlile-Price (Ado Annie Carnes), Sue Cella (Aunt Eller Murphy), Tom Gleadow (Andrew Carnes), Cooper Grodin (Ali Hakim), and Alex Levin (Jud Fry).
The production featured Direction by NSMT Alumni, Charles Repole, and Choreography by Mara Newbury Greer, that translated into a stunning and cohesive production. The Cowboy tap dance (in full on cowboy boots) was amazing, as were most of the chorus dance numbers. The direction supported the actors' efforts to create fully realized and fleshed out characters, and made for a vivid three- dimensional production. The only minor complaint was the that the overall pacing was a little slow, and hopefully as the show continues its run everything will tighten up a bit.
Ms. Parks as (Laurey Williams) was truly outstanding in every way. Her voice was bright, powerful, and technically perfect, and her she truly inhabited the character of Laurey. Mr. Price was likewise a standout in the cast, with a strong voice, and believable and likeable Curly. Ms. Carlile-Price and Mr. Bell as (Ado Annie) and (Will Parker) were perfectly cast and brought just the right amount of comedy and fun to the production. Alex Levin was convincingly sinister and menacing as (Jud Fry), with a clear bright baritone voice and strong presence, he gave a truly memorable performance. Finally, Sue Cella was terrific as (Aunt Eller Murphy) she had several poignant and enduring moments when comforting Laurey, and when showing her sadness and empathy for Laurey's situation, along with some very funny comedic moments.
The ensemble featured several strong dancers and singers and the casting was stellar, bringing together varied body types that fit the look of the production era, and thus brought a believable small town feel to life.
The cast of 24 also includes Bella Calafiura, Mary Callanan, Stephen Diaz, Dale Elston, Marjorie Failoni, Katie Griffith, Ricky Lee Loftus, Trevor McChristian, Kevin B. McGlynn, Alaina Mills, Rachel Perlman, Michael Pesko, Laura Sky Herman, Cameron Turner, Scott Whipple, and Jessica White.
The full creative team for OKLAHOMA! includes Charles Repole (Director), Mara Newbery Greer (Choreographer), Mark Hartman (Music Director), Kyle Dixon, (Scenic Design), Kelly Baker (Costume Coordination), Jack Mehler (Lighting Design), Daryl Bornstein(Sound Design), Rachel Padula-Shufelt (Wig and Hair Design), Natalie A. Lynch (Production Stage Manager), Dakotah Wiley Horan(Assistant Stage Manager), and Robert L. Rucinski (Assistant Music Director). OKLAHOMA! is produced for North Shore Music Theatre by Bill Hanney (Owner/Producer), Kevin P. Hill (Producing Artistic Director), and Matthew Chappell (Associate Producer, Casting Director).
Tickets for OKLAHOMA! are priced starting from $61 - $88. Performances are June 4 thru June 16, Tue - Thurs at 7:30 pm, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, matinees Wed, Sat and Sun at 2 pm. For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200, visit nsmt.org, or visit the box office at 62 Dunham Rd., Beverly, MA.
Additional Free Audience Enrichment events: Meet the Theatre: post-show audience discussion with the artists on June 11 after the 7:30 pm performance and June 15 after the 2 pm performance; OUT at the North Shore, an evening for the LGBTQ+ Community with a post-show reception on June 13 after the 7:30 pm performance. OUT at the North Shore is sponsored by North Shore Pride.
North Shore Music Theatre will continue the 2019 Musical Season with Disney's Freaky Friday (July 10 - July 21), Jersey Boys (August 6 - September 1), Sunset Boulevard (September 24 - October 6), The Bodyguard (October 29 - November 10), and the 29th annual production of A Christmas Carol starring David Coffee (December 6 - December 22).