‘Oklahoma!’ dances into audience’s heart

By Nicole Calacal

The Yvonne Theater was buzzing with activity as the Rider community, friends and family came out in full support of the university’s musical performance of “Oklahoma!” 

The musical was created by the collaborative efforts of playwrights Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and takes place after the turn of the 20th century in what is now known as Oklahoma.

This golden age masterpiece tells the story of Curly, a bold and confident cowboy that tries to win the heart of local farm girl, Laurey. 

The lobby was filled with lines of people waiting to get their tickets, and two students handled a concession stand, selling candy and small rubber ducks that were gifted to an actor of one’s choosing to wish them good luck. 

Inside the theater, the audience made small talk as they anticipated seeing their friends, fellow students and loved ones that were performing in the play. The show was filled with the original’s hit classics, combined with show-stopping choreography with numbers like “Kansas City,” “Many A New Day,” and “Dream Sequence.” 

The play started off with Curly wandering into Laurey’s yard as he belts out the tune to “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin,” and then he proceeds to ask Laurey to be his date to a dance that is taking place that night. She refuses to go with him and attends the dance with her farmhand, Jud Fry, instead, which sets off a chain of events that lead to Curly and Jud competing for Laurey’s affections.

The audience chemistry was definitely strong with everyone laughing at all the right moments, especially in most of the scenes where characters Aunt Eller, Ado Annie Carnes and Gertie Cummings were present. Whenever Gertie’s obnoxious laugh resounded through the theater, it never failed to draw laughs from the theater-goers. 

“Oklahoma!” has been around since the 1900s and has been a popular musical that has undergone countless adaptations, so it can be daunting to take on a famous piece of work and make it one’s own, which was a challenge for Julia Salatti, who played Ado Annie Carnes. 

“I think one of the biggest challenges of playing Ado Annie is the fact that ‘Oklahoma!’ and this role are both so iconic,” Salatti said. “I wanted to create my own authentic, funny and lovable version and create a full character.” 

That wasn’t the only challenge that Salatti and the rest of the cast and crew had to overcome. Jack Gerhard, who starred as Curly in the production, mentioned ballet was difficult for him to master. 

“I am not very confident as a dancer, and learning the lifts and moves was a little nerve-wracking,” he said. “Once I learned it though, it felt absolutely amazing to perform.” 

The “Dream Sequence” number shows Laurey falling asleep in a grove where she dreams about what it would be like if she was with Curly. Throughout the sequence, there is no dialogue and the whole scene is interpreted through the dance and actions of the characters. 

According to Catrina Contini, a freshman musical theater major, it was one of the most memorable parts of the play for her and she commended choreographer Robin Lewis on a job well done. 

“[Lewis] completely took all of their strong points and put them in one number, and it was just incredible. It was high energy the whole time,” Contini said.

For many students, it was a requirement to attend the play for their classes, which was the case for Contini, but she said she still enjoyed the production. “It was awesome,” she said. “It was everything I wanted it to be. It was just so incredible to see what is possible here. It’s incredible to see what the program does for their students and how they can work on the stage.” 

“Oklahoma!” delivered a performance that was filled with love, drama and comedy with elements of music and dance that helped to tell the story. 

“I feel like ‘Oklahoma!’ is so special because there are so many different styles of music in one show from a grandiose love ballad to a power belt song about a girl who can’t say no,” Salatti said. “Also, the dancing in this show is revolutionary and so extraordinary because, not only is it visually stunning, but it is [also] part of the plot.”

 

Published in the 10/17/18 edition.

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