A classic take on the first musical performed in the US
By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Whistles and laughter filled the crowd as Lone Peak High School’s rendition of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” brought awkward kissing scenes, excellent 1900s midwestern accents, and dramatic dance scenes to the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center stage on opening night. The performance spans three days from April 5-7.
Curly, the character played by LPHS junior Max Romney all three nights, is a confident, often arrogant, cowboy who refuses to admit his love for Laurey Williams, (played by sophomore Abby Meredith on night one) a young girl who lives on a ranch in the Oklahoma Indian territory with her wise and kind Aunt Eller (played by freshman Marley Schack on opening night.)
Curly has made big plans to take Laurey to the box social dance that evening, driving her there in a “surrey with the fringe:” a carriage replete with silk fringe, a genuine leather dashboard and pulled by snow-white horses. It’s a dream come true, but remember: Curly refuses to admit he likes Laurey, so when she teases him about it, Curly says the surrey with the fringe was fabricated and misses his chance to ask her to the dance.
“Oklahoma!” was the first-ever musical performed in the U.S. This version, directed by WMPAC Executive and Artistic Director John Zirkle and produced by Big Sky Broadway Co-Founder and Executive Producer Barbara Rowley, also featured a few firsts. Triple-cast this year, the performance had a record 35 students participating, and as the longest play the group has ever put on (2 hours and 15 minutes), this was the first LPHS play to include an intermission, during which audience members flocked to a bake sale table in the lobby.
“[As the first musical], it was really important for us to give a classic experience because we usually do contemporary shows [from] the past 20 years,” Zirkle said after the opening night performance.
All the actors put on a show, but a few stood out; particularly in their dancing skills. Will Parker, played by senior Ace Beattie on night one, who returns from Kansas City enthralled by his peek into the “modern world” with its skyscrapers, the Bell telephone and “the little wonder,” a metal tube used to look at pictures of women with a hidden blade inside.
In a lively scene, Parker teaches his fellow cowboys and Aunt Eller the two-step. Parker and the cowboys launched into a stirring tap-dance scene, learning the folk saloon modern dance of the time. Parker, who won $50 at a cow-steering competition at the fair in Kansas City, also showed off his lasso skills on stage, a fun twist added in for the LPHS performance, and one that captivated the audience.
The $50 that Parker wins in Kansas City is intended to gain the right to marry the woman of his dreams, Ado Annie, a flirty romantic played in a hilarious performance by senior Annel Garcia on night one. Ado’s protective rancher father, Carnes, played by junior Gus Hammond, doesn’t believe a cowboy is fit for his daughter and thus states Parker must prove he can maintain the $50. Parker chooses to spend the cash prize on gifts for Ado Annie instead.
Much of the plotline revolves around both Parker’s and Curly’s quest to win over their lovers. The quest is no easy task, however. Ado Annie confesses to Laurey that while Parker was in Kansas City, she fell in love with Persian peddler Ali Hakim, played by senior Luke Kirchamyr. Garcia as Ado Annie had the audience in stitches during her musical performance of “I Can’t Say No.” In the scene, Ado Annie is in a “tumble fix,” loving both young men depending on who she’s with at the time and dancing around with a broom symbolizing both Parker and Hakim.
Curly has his own obstacle: Laurey’s hired hand, Jud, played by senior John Chadwell portraying the dark, mysterious character. Jud is in love with and almost creepily obsessed with Laurey.
Romney’s performance shows a darker side to the play as Curly visits Jud in his smokehouse and meticulously plays out the scene of what it would be like for Jud to commit suicide by hanging himself and the ensuing funeral afterward. The set design for the smokehouse was impressive—complete with a vintage Fireball poster on the wall.
In another complicated, darker scene, the dream figure of Laurey, played by freshman Aubrey Farr, included a stunning extended ballet dance depicting Laurey’s dream after taking smelling salts (which she purchased from the peddler to help her decide which young man—Curly or Jud—she loves). In a beautiful white dress, Farr dances alongside Curly before the scene turns dark and Jud enters the dream in pursuit of killing Curly at the dream wedding.
LPHS students maneuvered seamlessly within the intricate and entangled plot of “Oklahoma!” through creating scene changes and fully embracing the emotions of each character as they followed the winding path to find love.
In the end, the performance proves just how far the characters will go for the one they love: selling all of their possessions, picking dangerous fights, taking what they believe to be an “elixir of Egypt” (smelling salts), and even murder.
Two more performances of “Oklahoma!” will take place at Warren Miller Performing Arts Center tonight and tomorrow, April 6 and 7, at 6:30 p.m.
Visit warrenmillerpac.org to purchase tickets to the show.