Muny Reviews 1998
Thursday, June 18, 1998
The 80th anniversary season of America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre, the St. Louis Muny Opera, opened on June 15 with the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma! Though Oklahoma! last played at the Muny only five years ago, it is always a pleasure to attend a performance of a legendary musical which is perfectly suited for the spacious Muny stage under the stars in Forest Park.
Unfortunately, "under the stars" also means susceptible to inclement weather, but a brief shower drove away few Muny audience members and, under Paul Blake’s guidance, delayed the beginning of the second act of Oklahoma! for only a half hour. Oklahoma! is the perfect kind of season opening show for Muny audiences, one which has wide appeal, is suitable for all ages, and includes charming and easily recognizable songs like "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'", "Surrey with the Fringe on Top", and the title song, "Oklahoma!".
The Muny never fails to take advantage of their expansive space when it comes to huge dance numbers like the toe-tapping "Kansas City". The musical’s ballet dream sequence, "Out of My Dreams" was visually stunning, a dream in itself. Indeed, Oklahoma!’s choreography was superb, the best I have witnessed since the Muny’s 1994 production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
The entire cast of Oklahoma! gave exceptional performances which could stand up against the best of Broadway. Blended voices in ensemble numbers like "Kansas City", "Many a New Day", and "The Farmer and the Cowman" were outstanding, but James Clow’s portrayal of Curly was the most impressive in the cast. Seen at the Muny last year in Three Coins in the Fountain, Clow easily made the transition to leading man and his strong, rich voice brought "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’" to life gracefully. He's sure to soon be known as a "Muny Favorite".
Bruce Adler (reprising his role as Ali Hakim from the 1980 Broadway production) and Nancy Ringham (Ado Annie) were delightful and hilarious in their supporting roles. And the musical’s darkly humorous number "Pore Jud is Daid" was cleverly delivered by Clow and Mark Lotito as Jud Fry.
If Oklahoma! is any indication of the caliber of shows to come, it’s sure to be a stellar summer. The Muny’s 80th anniversary season continues through August 9, so there’s plenty of opportunity to take advantage of one of St. Louis’s finest musical theatre venues.
For tickets call Metrotix at 314-534-1111, visit the Muny Box Office in Forest Park, or arrive early for one of the 1,436 free seats available every night. This article can also be found in the July issue of Intermission Magazine - Covering Theatre and the Arts in St. Louis.

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