Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma
The Muny
Reviewed by Russ Thomas
If the Muny's premier production this year of Roger's and Hammerstein's Oklahoma is any indication, this is going to be another in a series of glorious seasons at the Muny. Simply put, this Oklahoma is as close to perfect as you can imagine. The music, the choreography, the acting, the seas, its all as big and as bold and as beautiful as you could ever hope for. Producer Paul Drake aimed as high as an elephants eye for this production and he left the audience saying "O What a beautiful evening at the Muny".
The story, told and retold thousands of times since Oklahoma's premier 55 years ago, is about Cowboy Curly and his contrary love Laurie. Their love story, complicated by the sociopathic Jud Fry, shares time with the hilarious love triangle of Ado Annie, The "gal who cain't say no", the good hearted but not very bright Will Parker and Ali Hakim the Persian Peddler, foisting more than just his wares on the local women folk. Its all blended together with some of theater's greatest sons, songs like "People Will say We're in Love", "O What a Beautiful Morning", "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and of course that bold hymn of the American Dream, "Oklahoma" itself.
The performers were without exception, exceptional. Andrea Burns as Laurie was adorable as the stubborn farm girl afraid to give in to love. And her voice was nothing short of magnificent, perhaps the finest I've ever heard at the Muny. James Clow as Curly was excellent as well, even if his voice seemed to waver a little by the end of the performance. Bruce Adler as Ali Hakim was broad, yet somehow believable in his role of the Persian Peddler. I'm not sure what his accent was supposed to be-- Mostly Yiddish, a little German-- maybe that's what a Persian accent sounds like I really don't know. But I know it was funny and that's all that really matters.
Incidentally, a bonus in this production of Oklahoma is Hakim's musical number, "It's a Scandal, It's an Outrage". The number is part of the original Broadway production, but its rarely performed any more because its dated at best and sexist as worst. Still, its a good production number with a few laughs, but its major contribution to the play is that it adds some freshness to a play that, despite all its wonderful music, may be getting a little old and predictable to some theater goers. And it would be a serious omission not to note the outstanding, energetic choreography put together by Gemze de Lappe. My experience has been that in this play the dance numbers often slow down the tempo of the play-- not so in this performance where the dances ranged from boisterous most of the time to very nearly ballet in the famous dream sequence. So whether you've seen Oklahoma a dozen times of if you're one of the poor souls yet to be touched by its magic, you'll want to be sure and see The Muny's production of Oklahoma.

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