The award-winning musical Oklahoma! has all the ingredients of a classic play: humor, unrequited love, catchy songs, fighting. Oh, and Hugh Jackman.
OK, so Jackman may have played the lead role in the 1998 London revival, but over on the Princeton campus, students are taking matters into their own hands with Westminster Choir College’s production of Oklahoma!.
Complete with songs like “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” and “I Cain’t Say No,” this Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway play is a tough act to take on. But assistant stage manager Brittany Miller isn’t too worried about it.
“I’m not nervous,” Miller said. “I’m more disappointed that I have to be backstage for the show, but I am excited.”
Essentially a love story, the show features two full acts with WCC students Matt Taylor, Muiris Crowley and Theresa Schwickert tackling the vibrant lead roles.
“This is a story about really down-to-earth people struggling with everyday existence far away from normal civilization,” Taylor said. “It shows how they deal with conflict and simpler, everyday things too, like falling in love or finding a wife.”
Miller agreed and added that it involves two guys, Curly and Jud, fighting over a girl, Laurey, with some other side stories and a lot of dancing.
In fact, there’s so much dancing that a portable dance floor had to be laid on the stage for the cast to rehearse on. The Dream Ballet sequence at the end of the first act is 20 minutes of dancing that tells a story.
“‘The Dream Ballet’ is brilliantly orchestrated,” Taylor said. “It’s a beautiful story to tell through dance.”
Taylor plays Curly McLain, a cowboy who is in love with farm girl Laurey Williams.
“Curly is kind of a cocky cowman but he’s also a bit of a poet,” Taylor explained. “He can think up rhymes on the spot and paint beautiful pictures, but when the moment calls for him to stand up and be a man, he can do that too.”
Schwickert plays the role of Laurey. Curly and Laurey have a playful, flirtatious relationship, but both are too stubborn to pursue anything more.
As for the role of the “bad guy,” Muiris Crowley takes on the black-hearted role of Jud Fry, a farm hand with his eye on Laurey.
Confrontation ensues, all amidst disagreements between the farmers and cowmen. It’s an action-packed show complete with drama and celebration, as the Oklahoma territory becomes a state.
“There’s always something happening on stage and everyone is just incredible with how much time they’ve put into their characters,” Miller said. “It’s going to be a great show with fun music.”
So how does Taylor feel about following in Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman’s footsteps?
“It’s quite daunting,” he said with a laugh. “His shoes are, literally and figuratively, very hard to fill; I’m going to try not to think about it.”
Audiences are in for a treat with this milestone production. The actors have their hands full with the task of living up to such a breakthrough performance.
“Oklahoma! is an icon of music theater,” Taylor said. “Old music theater goers can come and remember what shows were like, and new theater goers can come and experience where this art form came from.”
Oklahoma! will be performed tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. A matinee performance will take place on Sunday, March 2 ,at 3 p.m. All shows will take place at the Princeton Regional Schools Performing Arts Center at Princeton High School. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for the general public. For more information, call the box office at 609-921-2663.