For seventy years Oklahoma!, the very first Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, has delighted audiences around the world with its wonderful music that includes the songs Surry with the Fringe on Top, I Can’t Say No, and People Will Say We’re in Love. In a change that revolutionized musical theater, Oklahoma! is also a strong drama, with characters we care about deeply and lyrics and choreography that directly relate to the story. Curly the cowboy, Laurey the young homesteader, the misfit Judd Fry and all the other farmers and ranchers have helped define both the golden age of musical theater and the American experience. Premiering in March 1943, in the midst of World War II, Oklahoma was an instant burst of optimistic energy. That spirit endures
Church Hill Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! is directed by Sylvia Maloney. Her cast of more than two dozen will be supported by Musical Director Joan Blume, Choreographer Cavin Moore, a live orchestra, and a full contingent of back stage helpers. CHT’s summer musicals are community theater at its best: Eager and inexperienced newcomers share the stage with experienced audience favorites (and sometimes the first-timers are decades older than the “pros”). Volunteers have painted the sets, constructed the costumes, and found all the props. While lacking Broadway’s glitz and special effects, Church Hill Theatre and talented local performers produce some pretty fine magic here on the Eastern Shore.
It’s always important to know who’s who in the cast. The young lovers, Laurey and Curly, are played by Becca VanAken and Mark Wiening. Aunt Eller is portrayed by Debbie Ebersole and Jud Fry by Wade Garrett. Lorrie Foy is the irrepressible Ado Annie and her suitors Will Parker and Ali Hakim will be played by Brian Whitaker and Will Covington. Others in the cast are Ira Nelson as Andrew Carnes, Kelly Ostazeski as Gertie Cummings, Kylie Sommer as Kate, Abbey Gilbert as Ellen, Jenifer Johnson as Sylvie, Karin Larsen as Vivian, Cara Wood as Aggie, Lois Miller as Armina, Samantha McCreary as Virginia, Laura Kaufmann as Sarah, Kasandra McCreary as Jane, Matt Foker as Ike Skidmore, Colin Graves as Cord Elam, Patrick Lindsay as Slim, Brandon Walls as Mike, Brody Alderson as Fred, Earl Payton as Joe, and Nolan Lindsay as Tom. Amanda and Eden Kloetzli will perform as Dance Laurey, Bryan Betley will be Dance Curly (and Jess), and Wade Garrett will be Dance Jud.
The all-important orchestra, conducted from the piano by Joan Blume, includes Ron Demby, Amy Stinnett, Frank Gerber, Joe Diamond and Albert Briggs.
The support staff includes Producer Bonnie Hill, Stage Manager Michele Christopher, Set Designer Michael Whitehill, Art Design by Brian Draper, Light Design by Doug Kaufmann, and Costumes by Tina Johnson and Erma Johnson. Jusden Messick, Michele Christopher, Brian Whitaker, Jim Johnson, Nic Carter, Bernadette Alderson, and Steve Payne will help ensure everything runs smoothly. Sheila Austrian, John Beck and Pat Patterson provided publicity, program design and photography.
Oklahoma! will run from June 7 to June 23, with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults , $17 for members and $10 for students. Reservations are essential, as CHT’s summer musical sells out quickly. Call 410-758-1331 or visit our website churchhilltheatre.org.