The Dallas Morning News
June 3, 1998
OK Corral
Dallas Summer Musicals rounds up a top-notch cast for 'Oklahoma!'
by Lawson Taitte
These days fashion dictates that when you revive a musical you reinterpret it and bring it up to date.  In its new production of Oklahoma!, the Dallas Summer Musicals dares to be different.  It treats Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic as a museum piece to be treasured.  Truth be told, this tells us more about Oklahoma! than any new-fangled concept.

The stumbling block in any Oklahoma! revival is what to do about the fabled Agnes de Mille choreography.  With the long dream ballet ending the first act, it's integral to the structure.  There's no way to update it but to replace or eliminate it altogether.

Instead, this production - which opened at the Music Hall on Tuesday and after a two-week run travles to St. Louis; Kansas City, MO.; and Atlanta - takes Ms. de Mille's work as its key.  Gemze de Lappe, who danced the lead role in Ms. de Mille's choreography for the early Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, gives us not just the steps but their spirit.

In a year in which the Summer Musicals organization in bringing us such dance shows as Chicago, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk, and Riverdance, the original dance musical fits right in.

The rest of the show follows suit.  the uncredited sets, the old-fashioned lighting and costumes takes us back to the early 1940's.  The musical interpretation emphasizes the score's roots in operatta and popular music of the 1930's.  Tempos are fast and unsentimental, and Mr. Rodgers glorious songs sound all the better.

Most cruicially, this production gives us singers who can sing and dancers who can dance.   James Clow's Curly looks younger and more innocent than most - Tom Sawyer crossed with Roy Rogers.  Few leading men on the modern musical stage have such powerful, accurate baritones.

With her heart-shaped face and huge stage smile, Andrea Burns has a different look from most Laureys.  She emphasizes the character's independent spirit.  John Bolton and Nancy Ringham are terrific as the comic leads, Will Parker and Ado Annie.

Oklahoma! changed the way they wrote musicials, but it's still a piece of its own time.  By honoring its conventions this production makes it seem fresh as ever.

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