Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II came together in 1941 and broke the mold of American Musical Theater with Oklahoma!, by reversing the process and writing the lyrics first and then the music. As it turned out, that also meant the songs bore partial responsibility for telling the story, rather than breaking away from it, which had been the standard prior to that time. Thus, a fully dramatic play supported by music and dance came into being.
The complexity of Richard Rodger’s music also gives the show an operatic quality. The Agnes DeMille dance sequences are reminiscent of her work in “Rodeo” by Aaron Copeland, created the following year.
At Temple Theatre, in Sanford, NC, director/choreographer Dan Murphy has brought together 45 highly talented performers to sing, dance, and act their way through this American classic. It makes for a pretty crowded stage at times; but these folks show their stuff with huge energy and careful movements, even in this tight space.
The several scenes are artfully created by set designer Steven Harrington, with a lovely cornfield and skyscape, a utilitarian farmhouse, a rustic smokehouse, a grove where Laurey’s dream occurs, a ranch, and the back of the farmhouse.
The pacing is fast and line delivery is mostly clear and well nuanced. The voices are exquisite, well trained and confidant under the direction of Clifton Cuddington III. Costume designers Peggy Taphorn and Lynda Clark dress their characters colorfully in early 20th century Midwestern garb, replete with ten-gallon hats, tied down pistol holsters and cowboy boots, the women in rural frocks and aprons and bonnets.
Elliot Lane (Curly) opens the show with the stirring “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”; and the first thing we thought was “Oh, what a beautiful voice!” He is also handsome, charming, and lovable.
Sunny Smith (Laurey) joins him with her elegant, melodious delivery. Smith is graceful and agile. Her unease with the hired farm hand Jud — which becomes a dreadful fear of him — is made apparent slowly and with a sense of reality.
Aunt Eller is played for us by Lynda Clark, whom we are always pleased to watch, at Temple Theatre and various other stages in the Triangle. She is absolutely delightful in this role, showing her classy humor and solid talent.
Ado Annie, the “I Cain’t Say No!” girl is brought to us by Jessica Lynne Becker; and Alexander Copas does Will Parker, a perfectly matched pair for these spritely roles.
Jud is a bit understated by Michael Jones, until he reveals the darkness of his character, and then he is pretty darn frightening. Jose Cangas as Ali Hakim and Alyssa Elkins as Gertie, the girl with the high-pitched laugh, are uncanny as a couple who seem to deserve each other.
The entire ensemble are worthy of high compliments, and Neil Bullard deserves a special tip of the hat. His work with Temple Theatre has been drawing our attention for a couple of years now. This production continues the exemplary work we’ve become accustomed to from Temple Theatre under the producing artistic director, the inimitable Peggy Taphorn.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 12th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald preview by Vicki Hogan: http://www.sanfordherald.com/features/x711467983/Temple-Theatre-Review-Oklahoma and Sept. 10th preview by Zach Potter: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/sanford/x1528973003/O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A-spells-new-season-at-Temple.
Temple Theatre presents OKLAHOMA! at 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 18, 8 p.m. Sept. 19 and 20, 2 p.m. Sept. 21, 2 and 7 p.m. Sept. 25, 8 p.m. Sept. 26 and 27, and 2 p.m. Sept. 28 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.
TICKETS: $21 Thursday and $25 Friday-Sunday ($14 students and $21 Lee County teachers and educators, active-duty military personnel, and groups of 10 or more).
BOX OFFICE: 919-774-4155, email@example.com, or https://www.vendini.com/.
SHOW: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason14-15.php and https://www.facebook.com/events/1504288629815057/.
2014-15 SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason14-15.php.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Theatre_%28Sanford,_North_Carolina%29.
Green Grow the Lilacs (1931 Broadway play with music): http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=4099 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Grow_the_Lilacs_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
Lynn Riggs (Claremore, OK-born playwright, 1899-1954): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7452 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Riggs (Wikipedia).
Oklahoma! (1943 Broadway and 1947 West End musical): http://www.rnh.com/show/78/Oklahoma! (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=6697 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma! (Wikipedia).
Richard Rodgers (New York City composer, 1902-79): http://www.rnh.com/bio/175/Rodgers-Richard (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8323 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Rodgers (Wikipedia).
Oscar Hammerstein II (New York City librettist, 1895-1960): http://www.rnh.com/bio/154/Hammerstein-II-Oscar (Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization bio), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7965 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Hammerstein_II (Wikipedia).
Dan Murphy (guest director and choreographer from Tigard, OR): http://www.broadwayrose.org/about/staff (Broadway Rose Theatre Company bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.