BWW Reviews: Weathervane's OKLAHOMA! Not a Dusty Old Plain

The average June temperature of the state of Oklahoma is in the high 80s. The temperature of the Valerie Accetta directed OKLAHOMA! at the Weathervane Playhouse in Newark, Ohio, is much, much hotter.

An extremely strong ensemble of acting and singing performances, a flawless musical support and an intriguing set paints vivid colors on the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about life on the prairie.

At the center of the play are two love triangles. The first is among Laurey (played by Katherine Riddle), Curly (Patrick Clements) and Jud (a sinister Liam O'Daniel).

Riddle, who played Cosette in the Weathervane production of LES MISERABLES last winter, uses her soaring soprano vocals and strong acting chops to bring Laurey to life. There's a quirky chemistry between Riddle and Clements.

In "A Surrey With The Fringe On Top," the clearly smitten Curly tries to convince Laurey to go to the box social with him instead of farmhand Jud. Laurey says no but, at the same time, she keeps scooting closer and closer to Curly.

O'Daniel offers more than a wax-mustached version of a villain. At first it's easy to feel sorry for his spurned Jud until he starts to reveal his darker side in "Lonely Room." One of the highlights of the show is funniest and yet darkest parts of OKLAHOMA is "Pore Jud is Daid' in which Curly sings how people will realize what a great guy Jud is... at his funeral: He loved everybody and everything in the whole world! Only he never let on, so nobody ever knowed it. All the time, he is subtly turning a sturdy rope into a noose.

The second love triangle involves cowboy Will Parker (Jordan Moody) and peddler Ali Ahkim (Jeffrey Gorti) "vying" for the hand of overly flirtatious Ado Annie (Katrina Colletti). Colletti is a treat as Ado Annie. Her comic ballad "I Cain't Say No" explains how she ended up with two suitors.

Ahkim soon realizes he wants Annie's affections but not her hand in marriage. When the peddler backs out, she tells Parker she wants to be married on Aug. 15 because that was the day she was first kissed. Parker tells her "Oh it was? I didn't remember that."

"You weren't there," Ado Annie explains.

Other key players include Gena Loe (Gertie Cummings) Carolyn Redman (Aunt Eller) and Dennis Kohler (Andrew Carnes). Caylie Newcome and Reed Worth provide an ethereal dance sequence that provides Laurey insight what life would be like without Curly in it.

Other key members of the ensemble include Emily Crawford, Kaitlyn Herbst, Steve Herbst, Cameron Jackson, Eileen Janesz, Brad Johnson, Gena Loe, Kirk Lydell, Alexandra Milbrath, Alexander Might and Abigail Morris.

The band, directed by Kevin Wines, features Kyle Washka (violin), Lalita Huth (flute), Joe Watkins (trumpet), Cole Rumora (bass) and Will Blount (drums). It brings out the best in such hummable classics as "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're In Love, "The Farmer and the Cowman," and the title track.

OKLAHOMA may be set in 1905 and opened over 70 years ago but the stellar performance of actors and musicians of the Weathervane Playhouse prove why the musical is timeless.

OKLAHOMA! is being performed 8 p.m. July 2, 3, 4, and 5 at the Weathervane Playhouse (100 Price Road in Newark, Ohio).

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From This Author Paul Batterson

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