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OKLAHOMA 4110 Bailey Avenue, Amherst/O'Connell & Company
By
May 7, 2024, 21:37
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Through May 19
OKLAHOMA! 4110 Bailey Avenue, Amherst/O’Connell & Company

By Augustine Warner

If you are going to stage a classic musical, having a strong cast is a good start.
That’s what O’Connell &; Company is doing with “Oklahoma!” in its Bailey Avenue theater.
Director and choreographer Joey Bucheker chose to go with the original script, one altered over eight decades on stage and screen to what is around today.
This is a pivotal show in Broadway theater, a “book” musical built around the story based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs.”
In the middle of World War II, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II created a revolutionary musical, without much of the distractions, vaudeville performers and the rest, which had dominated the Broadway stage for decades.
This show told a story set in Indian Territory, a vast swath of the American Southwest, in the early years of the 20th Century, just before Oklahoma became a state.
It’s a rural farming area, with some tensions shown by the production number “The Farmer and the Cowman,” which gets a strong performance.
There’s also that attraction of rural country, the weather, Curly (Merrick Allen) with “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”
There’s even a traveling salesman, Ali Hakim (L. Steven Maisonet), who winds up settling down with Gertie Cummings (
Sam Crystal).
The core of the show is the romance of Curly and Laurey (Ashleigh Chrisena Ricci), with the strange Jud Fry (Michael Wells) looming outside and trying to take Laurey.
Fry is a drifter who works on the farm with Laurey and Aunt Eller (Pamela Rose Mangus), with Laurey telling her aunt that Fry prowls the house very quietly in the middle of the night.
Eventually, he suffers the fate of all such bad guys in the world of entertainment, in a near-vigilante situation and resolution.
Much of the rest is romantic, Curley and Laurey and Will Parker and Ado Annie Carnes.
Annie is constantly putting the moves on the local male population and makes her situation very clear with the song “I Can’t Say No,” although in those more censored times the meaning is a little obscured.
Mostly the inhabitants of this small rural town sing and dance and party.
That’s where the strength of the show and the production comes through, the dancing high kicks of “Many A New Day,” Curley and Laurey with “People Will Say We’re In Love” and the “Dream Ballet” of the entire cast with no words and only music and some stage fog.
The big production number is “Oklahoma,” with the entire cast out there dancing across the landscape of what is about to be a state.
The tribal nations are still fighting with the larger society about some significant details of that statehood, like the criminal justice system.
Bucheker and the cast have delivered a wonderful "Oklahoma," basically with a cast unfamiliar to me which is likely to fill area stages for many years because there are so many good dancers and singers in the cast, certainly Allen, Ricci, Pine and the company generally.

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