On a cold, snowy mid- April night, I headed to the Marriott Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, to see the 75th Anniversary Production of Oklahoma. On my drive, I wondered how this production would hold up after so many years and how it would be staged. The production was wonderful, fresh and energetic – it held up well for its age and the staging in the “round” was more intimate than a traditional stage.
Oklahoma! was the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein, and it broke Broadway box office records when it opened in 1943. Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, Oklahoma! continues even after 75 years to be a favorite, and as proof, this production has been extended to June 19th. Each of Richard Rogers’ melodies and the book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II were a delight and I was amazed at how many of them were familiar to me.
Many years ago, when both Oklahoma! and I were much younger, it was the first musical I saw and I was entranced. Sometime around 1955, I saw the musical film based on the 1943 stage musical Oklahoma!, starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones (in her film debut), Rod Steiger, Charlotte Greenwood, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, James Whitmore and Eddie Albert. I was enthralled.
Marriott Theatre celebrates Oklahoma! at 75 with an “all out” performance- a large and talented cast, the use of projections that convincingly set the scene, luscious costumes, a great live orchestra, and dancing that stole the show. The original dances by Agnes de Mille, were a game changer when the show first opened. The 15-minute ballet dream sequence is part of the story and ushers in the events that follow. Dance throughout was beautifully performed and embellished the story, and especially noted in Kansas City and Out of My Dreams.
Brandon Springman’s “Curly” was convincing and his voice was beautiful, Michelle Lauto’s “Ado Annie Carnes” was funny and charming, Aaron Umsted does a mean rope trick, Shea Coffman as “Jud Fry”, was scary, while Evan Tyronne Martin as “Ali Hakim” was great comic relief.
Tucked away between the singing and dancing were issues that continue to resonate. The farmer and the rancher still see things differently, the have and have nots are among us, mental health is problematic, and men still are known to be guilty of inappropriate behavior toward women.
Oklahoma! stars Susan Moniz as “Aunt Eller”, Brandon Springman as “Curly”, Jennie Sophia as “Laurey”, Aaron Umsted as “Will Parker”, Shea Coffman as “Jud Fry”,Michelle Lauto as “Ado Annie Carnes” Evan Tyronne Martin as “Ali Hakim”, Elizabeth Telford as “Gertie Cummings, Evan Tyrone Martin as “Ike Skidmore,” Ken Singleton as “Fred,” Maxwell J DeTogne as “Slim,” Terry Hamilton as “Andrew Carnes,” Steven Strafford as “Cord Elam,” Benita Bünger as “Dream Laurey,” Lucas Segovia as “Dream Curly,” and Maya Lou Hlava as “Young Laurey.” Oklahoma! also stars Brandon Block, Miranda Borkan, Nick Cosgrove, Alejandro Fonseca, Autumn Hlava, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Madison Piner, Zachary Porter, Kyra Sorce, Adrienne Storrs, and Jessica Wolfrum.
The Assistant Director for the production is Chris Gunn, and Eva Breneman provides dialect coaching. Set design is by Kevin Depinet, projection design by Tony Churchill, costume design by Brian Hemesath, assistant costume design by Steph Taylor, wig design by Katie Cordts, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
This is an historic moment because it celebrates 75 years, because it changed musical theater, and because it suggests the hardships in Oklahoma before it became a state. Do yourself a favor and get tickets- now.
The performance schedule for Oklahoma! is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of dinner-theatre packages available for purchase through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to the ticketmaster website. Visit the MarriottTheatre website for more information.
Photos are courtesy of Liz Lauren