Rants, Raves and Reviews: Oklahoma
by Richard Rodgers (Music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (Book and Lyrics)
Directed by Shel Piercy Music Director Wendy Bross Stuart
Alternate nights till August 17th at Malkin Bowl
Oh what a beautiful evening, oh what a wonderful night. I love Oklahoma - the musical that is, as Oklahoma is one of the nineteen US states I have yet to visit. It's not that I've been swallowing happy pills but I just love musicals and this one is jam packed with tunes that make me wish I had the singing and dancing talent to be up there on stage having as much fun as the enthusiastic young cast seem to have. Add a mild dry Vancouver night after the threatened rain shower spattered by in the early afternoon, an appreciative audience with families and lots of young people and a great venue in Stanley Park - what could be more quintessential Vancouver than that?
Dating from 1943, Oklahoma was the first of the collaborations between Rodgers and Hammerstein that produced a string of eminently sing-able musicals, including "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music." The story line is the classical straightforward plot. Boy and girl love each other but won't admit it; bad guy covets girl; fight occurs, bad guy loses out and boy and girl live happily ever after. Based on Lynn Riggs' stage play, "Green Grow the Lilacs," the story is set in Indian Territory, five years before it becomes the State of Oklahoma in 1907. Boy and girl are cowboy Curly (Mat Baker) and farm girl, Laurey (Jayme Armstrong) Both have great voices and I confess that during "People Will Say We're in Love", sentimental romantic that I am, I blinked away a tear.
I also loved Ado Annie (Melissa Oei) in "I Cain't Say No" and as Gertie Cummings, Megan Phillips was wonderfully obnoxious. Ryan Egan was hilarious as peddler Ali Hakim, who one could not help liking despite his conniving ways. Dramatic tension is introduced by the bad guy, disturbed farm hand loner, Jud Fry (Kevin Michael Cripps), who is fixated on Laurey. So isolated ("Lonely Room") and disliked, that he can almost be enticed by Curly into planning his own funeral, Jud provides a jarring reminder of the damage inflicted by similar loners in today's society.
The Dream Ballet that highlights the struggle between good and evil to win Laurey, is a striking sequence beautifully danced. The large cast handled all the song and dance sequences with energy and enthusiasm, and the action never flagged. It's a really fun show. You'll walk out with glorious tunes dancing around in your head. This morning my shower had to put up with a medley of tunes, as I croaked my way through "Many a New Day" and "Out of My Dreams" before hopping around vigorously drying off to the strains of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top."
There are about 7 more performances till the end of the run so there is still time to spend a beautiful evening at Theatre Under The Stars.