Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of OKLAHOMA! at Skylight Music Theatre

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Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of OKLAHOMA! at Skylight Music Theatre

Skylight Music Theatre presents Oklahoma! running September 27 through October 13, 2019 in Skylight's beautiful Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward.

Oklahoma! is one of the most influential and triumphant musicals in history. In 1943, Oklahoma! broke ground for seamlessly integrating book, music and dance into its story of a young farm woman and her two suitors. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and numerous Tony Awards, Oklahoma! features a gorgeous Rodgers and Hammerstein score with such unforgettable songs as "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "People Will Say We're in Love," "Surrey with a Fringe on Top," and of course, "Oklahoma."

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Gwen Rice, OnMilwaukee: Another Ponasik signature element is including some graceful modern dance interludes featuring Milwaukee Opera favorite Christal Wagner. And while her spins, leaps and ribbon dances are lovely, they feel out of step with the rest of the choreography by James Zager, which isn't fancy. The cast does the two-step and traditional square dances with energy and ease. Here, Laurey's "dream ballet" is much more of a wordless drama than a dance sequence, which also feels right. It is consistent with the simpler, more straightforward approach of the production overall, and does a terrific job dramatizing the confusion and anxiety in Laurey's mind.

Dominique Paul Noth, Urban Milwaukee: The show does have a weakness though, the 12 actors sing the stuffings out of the score. But all the cast members are doing double and triple duty as characters and participants switching sides. Guessing who will turn up where gets a bit muddling and distracting. Similarly choreographer James Zager, a frequent partner with Ponasik, relies too much on invented friskiness, tangled bedsheets and sudden pirouettes. Whether the limit on cast size was budgetary or a deliberate choice, it sometimes keeps the scenes from cutting loose.

John Jahn, Shepherd Express: The scaled-down version of Oklahoma! Skylight offers includes a highly talented, multi-racial cast of 12, a small, on-stage band and superbly evocative set design and costumes. This intimacy allows you to really hear all the snappy dialogue and witty lyrics of the piece-a reminder of just what geniuses Rodgers and Hammerstein were, so clearly evident in this, their first collaboration. At the center is the fine acting, singing and dancing of Lucas Pastrana (Curly), Brittani Moore (Laurey) and Cynthia Cobb (Aunt Eller), but truth be told, the whole cast and crew proves completely up to the task of presenting us with a memorable production of a timeless piece of American theater.

Matthew Perta, Showbiz Chicago: Right from the get-go the audience is swept away by the vocals of Skylight favorite Lucas Pastrana, excellent as ranch hand Curly McLain, singing "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" as he arrives on Laurey's Aunt Eller's ranch, hoping Laurey will attend the box social with him. Curly and Laurey are utterly charming in "The Surrey with the Fringe on the Top" and "People Will Say We're in Love." Laurey, played by suburban Chicago native Brittani Moore and Aunt Eller, portrayed by Cynthia Cobb, bring delicious feistiness to their respective roles.

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