Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Oklahoma—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR

The New Frontier

This iconic musical is playing at their summer location at the Deb Fennell Auditorium, 9000 SW Durham Rd. (Tigard High School), through August 23rd.  It is by the great Rogers and Hammerstein II and directed by Sharon Maroney.  Choreography is by Maria Tucker and music direction by Jeffery Childs.  For more information, go to their site at www.broadwayrose.org or call 503-620-5262.

This not only was the beginning of a new state in the early 1900’s, previously “Indian Territory,” but also a new era in musicals, in which the songs were an integrated part of the story.  It is based on a tale by Lynn Riggs called, “Green Grow the Lilacs.”  It is, on a broad scale, about the emergences of a variety of people trying to carve out a civilization in the wilderness.  The Native Americans and Mexicans had already been here.  There we also slaves, carpetbaggers, cattlemen, sheepherders, cowboys, city slickers and farmers, all trying to carve out a niche for themselves in this virgin land.

But, this mini microcosm of some of those factions, are what is presented here.  It is pretty much an old-fashioned love story with Curly (Jared Miller), a cowboy and a proud loner, who has his sights set on an equally proud and stubborn woman named, Laurey (Dru Rutledge), who lives with her Aunt Eller (Nan Gatchel), a feisty ole gal.  There is also the side story of Will (James Sharinghousen), a fun-loving cowboy, who is smitten by Ado Annie (Megan Carver), who is just crazy about…well, anyone who wears jeans…in other words, not the faithful type.

But both of these young gals have their nemesis.  Laurie, in a brute of a simple farmhand called Jud (Colin Wood), who is lusting after her, and woe be to them that refuse his advances.  And Annie, in the guise of a traveling salesman/con artist named, Ali (Joey Cóté), who has his eyes set on anything that wears skirts.  To tell more would spoil discoveries for the audience.

Needless to say, all these factions, including the cattlemen and farmers, will butt heads to see who rules the day.  But most of them will realize, that in order to gain the day, they must learn compromise and share this time in the sun (something that is still not completely accepted in today’s society).

All the familiar songs are there including “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “I Cain’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and, of course, “Oklahoma.”  Miller is a fine Curly, giving both the bravado and vulnerability of this character, and blessed with a strong singing voice.  Rutledge had an operatic range, which she puts to good use, and is convincing as the conflicted Laurey.  But, as in most musicals, the supporting, comic players do have a chance to shine, too.  Carver, as Annie, is both funny, and a bit sad, as a gal who can’t make up her mind.  Cóté as the traveling loner, is very funny, as a bit of a cad but eventually saves the day, unintentionally.

Wood, as the villain of the piece, is very convincing as a real heel, who has a demon inside him.  And the always remarkable Sharinghousen is outstanding as the good-natured Will, especially impressive in his dance numbers.  Also, worth noting, are the two dancers who do the famous dream ballet sequence, Claire Zavislan as “Laurey” and Nick Perry as “Curly.”  They, and this whole episode, are beautifully done.

My hat’s off to the director, Maroney, for keeping the flow going, even with the scene changes, and allowing the actors to give some depth to their characters.  Tucker, as the choreographer, is equally impressive in the dance numbers, including the ballet, the ensemble entrance of Will and Annie, and the “Farmer and the Cowhand” number.  And, not to forget, the Drammy award-winning, Kristen Mun, as the fight choreographer, whose scuffles are as much dance-like movements as they are “fights.”

Foreigners and the uneducated are not treated well by the script.  Nor is the inclusion of a song that seems to border on what nowadays would be considered cyber-bullying.  But, we had just emerged from a World War in the mid-1940’s, these elements were probably a sign of the times.

I recommend this production.  Keep in mind they do tend to sell out, as their parking lot fills up fast, so best plan your time accordingly.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.