by Lorie Lewis Ham
If you love good, old-fashioned musicals, you need to head out to the Reedley Opera House this month and catch the Reedley River City Theatre Company production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Oklahoma! is said to have been a ground breaking musical for its time that inspired a new generation of Broadway musicals and pushed the boundaries of the genre. It opened on Broadway in 1943. Even now, it is probably one of the best known musicals–many people have heard of it even if they’ve never seen a musical. Part of that is likely due to the 1955 movie version starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.
The story centers around a cowboy named Curly who is in love with a farm girl named Laurey and striving to win her hand. Throw in a creepy farmhand named Jud who is also in love with Laurey, Aunt Eller who is like an Aunt to most of the town of Claremore, more cowboys and farmers, and even a Persian peddler, and you have the cast of Oklahoma! There is also a fun subplot featuring a not so bright cowboy named Will trying to win the hand of a flighty farmer’s daughter named Ado Annie who just can’t say no to the boys–their storyline provides most of the comedy in the show.
This is a down home, fun, family musical filled with great music and some big cast numbers like the title song “Oklahoma!” Other well known songs include “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” and “People Will Say We’re In Love.”
Theatre companies all over the world have performed this show and you can now find it on stage at the Reedley Opera House. I am always amazed at the level of talent found on Valley stages and this show is no exception. Heather Price as Laurey, and Joseph Ham as Curly, both have beautiful voices and did a wonderful job. Charlton Hughes as Will and Annie Hobbs as Ado Annie were hilarious. Chris Borden was also funny as the Persian peddler Ali Hakim. Jeff Lusk’s song as Jud, “Lonely Room,” was one of the few dark songs in the show and he did an amazing job–not only does he have a big, strong voice but he was perfectly creepy.
Other cast members include RCTC regular Marianne McFarlin as Aunt Eller, Chris Giese, Erik Valencia, Tommie Hill, Berit Rhodes (who plays the girl with the crazy laugh Gertie Cummings), Don Applegate (who plays Ado Annie’s father), Jason Nichols, Stephanie Barnett, Jessica Runnels (who had a lovely solo in one song), and Brittany Roberts, along with a few others that fill out the ensemble. I always feel like big musical numbers are a strong suit of RCTC and this show was no exception. When they sing Oklahoma! you just want to sing along.
These are the kind of songs that will stick in your head for days! Oklahoma! was directed by father and daughter team Matt and Sarah Wiebe, and they deserve kudos as well. So if you’re in the mood for some great music and a just plain fun, mostly feel good, musical, head out to the Reedley Opera House and see Oklahoma! which runs through the end of March. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling 559-638-6500. You can also learn more on their KRL event page.
Side note: Joseph Ham and Jessica Runnels are my children, so I could be a bit prejudice 🙂 However, from the sound of the applause this weekend I’m guessing not. But why not go see this show and find out for yourself. What better way to spend a weekend than by supporting local theatre and having a great time.