A timeless musical brought to life by Taylor’s Theatre
By Ian Proano | Echo
Wiling music sprang out of the pit, forcing my feet to obey its catchy tune as the stage lights revealed a farmhouse scene. The culprit of the devilishly good melodies was the Taylor student Pit Orchestra, which provides the live accompaniment for “Oklahoma!” The intro to this timeless musical is just a taste of the wonderful trip back in time this performance gives to its audience.
The plot of “Oklahoma!” centers around the romance of Laurey Williams and Curly McLain, played by sophomore Anna Kaye Schulte and junior John Broda. Curly makes bold advances toward Laurey, asking if she will accompany him to the box social. Laurey stubbornly refuses and instead chooses to go with the eerie farmhand Jud, who has been eying her for quite some time. A major side plot concerns Ado Annie, who just can’t seem to make up her mind on who she would rather choose: a cowboy or a peddler.
Senior JessicaSchulte, who is a member of the women’s ensemble and the dance captain for the production, said, “I really enjoyed being a member of the ensemble because it’s a unique opportunity to interact with everyone in the cast.”
Every actor brings vibrant and enthusiastic characterization to their different roles, sporting rich yet understandable accents. One of the standout performances came from senior Tamara Peachy who plays Aunt Eller, the beloved matriarch of the town who does her best to keep the community healthy and thriving. Her most memorable moment was when she threatened Andrew Karnes, played by Professor of English Joe Ricke, with a revolver during one of the musical numbers.
Two themes weave themselves throughout the musical. The first is about a community uniting to form something larger than themselves, in this case the state of Oklahoma, no matter what differences may exist between them. But the second theme resonates with a much darker side to human experience. Director Tracy Manning said, “There’s this underlying, very dark story of Jud and the fear that Laurey has of him. The fear that she has of really what we would call now date rape . . . I think to be able to talk about that in context of a musical is really interesting to think about.”
The situation’s gravity shows up in grim fashion. Red lights cast a bloody visage of backlighting onto Jud as he sings about taking Laurey for himself. Freshman Steven Mantel, who plays Jud, does a marvelous job of making his character seem a bit “off,” always implying a dark side of his psyche to the audience.
Dancin’, whoopin’ and hollerin’ adds to the fun and excited spirit of the play. “I think my favorite moment of the show is the ballet sequence,” junior stage manager Grace Foltz said. “I think it’s so important; it is gorgeous the way it was choreographed and it’s just such a delight to watch.”
Many of the songs incorporate dance numbers, which the cast members throw themselves into with energy. Dance instructor and Theatre Adjunct Faculty Kory Browder designed the seamless choreography that brings the spirit of the time period to life.
“Oklahoma!” is a wonderful addition to Taylor’s rich theatre history and is a treat that should not be missed. “We wanted to engage our community with a musical that’s changed American musical theatre forever,” Manning said.
The last performances are this weekend at 8:00 p.m. tonight and tomorrow and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. The cost per ticket is $7 for Taylor students and $10 for adults.