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Published by Oxford Karma – Read orignial article here

Originally published on June 26, 2015


Lyric Theatre’s Tried and True Production of OKLAHOMA! is More Than OK

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Civic Center Music Hall | Oklahoma City

An empty stage, save for a lone ghostlight, greets theatergoers at Lyric Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! The director, Michael Baron, explains in a pre-show speech that this is so the audience can see the stage set for the first act while the overture plays. Indeed, a stagehand soon strikes the ghostlight, a partly cloudy backdrop of an azure sky flies in, more stagehands shove Aunt Eller’s farmhouse in from the wings, four hay bales appear, a full-sized windmill rolls on, a clothesline with washing is hung, and away we go. (Theater trivia buffs know that Away We Go! was the original title of Oklahoma! The change was made before the show opened on Broadway in 1943.)

This is as daring as Baron gets with this production, now at the Thelma Gaylord Theater in Civic Center Music Hall. In recent years, a few theater companies around the country have tried more provocative stagings of this classic Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical, which was famously daring in its day. But people who don’t like change will approve of Lyric’s production. For others who have seen Oklahoma! a million times and are tired of it, I don’t know what you have to get excited about here.

Except I can tell you, under Baron’s effective direction, the show is well-done by an able cast with handsome scenery and costumes. Aunt Eller’s roughhewn, unpainted farmhouse (scenic design by Michael Schweikardt) and the earth-toned costumes (by Jeffrey Meek) suggest real territorial Oklahoma. Brian J. Marcum’s choreography peaks with the goofy exuberance of “Kansas City” early in the show (Jo Rowan choreographed “Dream Ballet,” which floats on Helen Kuukka’s lighting design).

The show is written in dialect. The accents are inconsistent in this production, but you do get a lot of “you” is “yew,” “where” is “whirr” and “sure” is “shore.”

As Laurey and Curly, Kirsten Scott, and Mateja Govich have the necessary chemistry. Scott’s Laurey shows impetuousness as an Oklahoma pioneer woman. Govich’s Curley comes off as a slightly dim bulb. He is a rugged cowboy, but one deep kiss from Laurey sends him scampering with his tail between his legs.

The production has solid performances in supporting roles. Andi Dema is a crowd pleaser as peddler Ali Hakim. As Gertie Cummings, Melissa Griffith’s laugh sounds like a cross between a howl and a whinny. Christopher Rice and Morgan Mabry ham it up has Will Parker and Ado Annie. Julie Johnson plays Aunt Eller with a twang that’s pure Little Dixie. The oddest casting is Kasey Yeargain as Jud Fry. Yeargain’s model-level handsomeness and boyish bangs do not foretell his basso profundo. With the production’s heavy amplification, one wonders at first if that’s really Yeargain’s voice.

Lyric treats the show as a sacred object worthy of its own rituals, which maybe it is around here. During the title song at the reviewed performance, the audience – with Baron’s blessing – stood, clapped, whooped, and hollered.