Oklahoma | The Muny

Oklahoma 75This show is an absolute must see for its music and casting.

 

 

 

Oklahoma 500

At 8:15 sharp on the opening night of the last show of The Muny’s 97th season, Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson took the stage. The crowd loves Mike and, as always, gave him a warm welcome. Along with expressing his gratefulness for The Muny’s devoted patrons over the course of this rain-plagued season, he naturally had some things to say as well about the show we were about to see. Oklahoma, he said, had “helped America understand itself” when it debuted in 1943.

This remark and others noted in the playbill suggest that this is a show well worth studying. It had a profound impact on the industry, and having a thorough understanding of its historical significance would, I believe, only enhance audience appreciation of it. Just something to think about.

I had no idea what to expect from Oklahoma. It’s a classic I was unfamiliar with. I was in for an evening graced by the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, which was all it took to fill me with excited anticipation. It only took one song—the first (and my favorite) of the show, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”—to know the music would be absolutely phenomenal throughout. The storyline, however, came as a total surprise to me. The show’s love triangle isn’t funny or cute; it’s just plain creepy!

You see, Curly (Ben Davis) really likes Laurey (Christine Cornish Smith). She also is quite fond of him, but their relationship isn’t one of cutesy flirting. They banter and toss around insults; Laurey, specifically, attempts to act entirely disinterested. This dynamic is, of course, frustrating because clearly these two are meant for one another. Jud Fry (Alexander Gemignani) works for Laurey’s Aunt Eller (Beth Leavel), and he too has eyes for Laurey. To Curly’s frustration, Laurey accepts Jud’s invite to a local dance, although, the audience learns she’s only agreed to go with him because he frightens her. At first, I hardly knew what to make of this. We’d only been introduced to Jud’s character in passing. Was he just the misunderstood gentle giant type or were Laurey’s concerns valid? By the end of scene two I was convinced of the latter.

The other storyline unfolding involved the adorable Ado Annie Carnes (Jenni Barber) who is extremely boy crazy. She’s naïve, but the girl knows what she wants and that’s to kiss boys all day long. Her shenanigans with love interests Will Parker (Clyde Alves) and Ali Hakim (Nehal Joshi) provides the show with some much needed comic belief. Barber quite honestly stole the show!

Overall, Oklahoma’s storyline is one I could take or leave. I had no vested interest in the show’s major characters (Laurey, Curly, and Jud), which made the production drag a bit more me. However, this show is an absolute must see for its music and casting. Everyone did an exquisite job. I don’t want to give too much away about it, but the closing number of Act 1 is actually a ballet and while it’s a bit trippy (like something you’d see in Alice In Wonderland), it’s absolutely stunning. If you remember anything from this show, aside from the songs, it will be this masterpiece of a performance! | Megan Washausen

The Muny’s 2016 season will likely be announced in November. Oklahoma runs through August 16. For ticket information, visit muny.org

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