Oklahoma is at least good for some things
June 20, 2008
I’ve got to admit when my parents first moved from Hot Sulphur Springs to Oklahoma, my siblings and I, and many of my parents’ friends here, couldn’t figure out why in the H-E-double hockey sticks they chose Oklahoma. The choices were many if all they wanted was warmer weather (I can remember my dad snowblowing to the clothesline in May so my mom could hang out items).
Sure, Oklahoma is known for having the largest Native American population, some good football teams, the world’s first-installed parking meter (in Oklahoma City), and more of course. But before I saw Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre’s opening of “Oklahoma” last Friday, the name to me conjured thoughts of tornados, bugs out the yin-yang, oil wells, dry heat and, of course, the depressing Dust Bowl days highlighted in John Steinback’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Not very many pleasant thoughts for the most part, and maybe it’s just that I get cranky after the 13-hour drive to visit my folks now. But I have been enlightened through the eyes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the cast and crew at RMRT and their production of the play.
The beauty the state boasts came into clearer view for me through the talents of scenic designer Glen Anderson. Among many other cool elements on stage, including a versatile homestead front porch that swivels around to become the hired help’s smokehouse/sleeping quarters, RMRT’s “Oklahoma!” features a beautiful backdrop of a corn field with whimsical clouds. With lighting design by Kent Barrett, the hue changes in the sky are awe inspiring.
As always, the costumes put together by acclaimed costume designer Jesus Perez were colorful and incredibly detailed, as is the choreography by Matt Raftery (especially during songs “Kansas City,” “It’s a Scandal! It’s A Outrage,” and title song “Oklahoma!”)
There’s also some incredible singing voices in this year’s cast. Pipes to praise include those of Sam Prince who plays Curly, Elizabeth Lanza who plays the female lead Laurey, and Steven Pierce who plays Jud Fry, who’s somewhat of a villain.
Peter Durkin, who played Snoopy in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” in a previous RMRT production and plays foreign peddler Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma!,” once again almost steals the stage. Granted he has a lot of the funny lines in the play (see sample below), but the man also has some serious versatility. Other faces to look out for are local guest artists Hannah Heckerson, Rory Mulligan, Eldon Oswald, and Barbie Tompkins.
In keeping with a goal to give back to the community, RMRT offers two scholarships each year to deserving high school seniors and is hosting the return of its “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” food drive. Ticket holders and the public are encouraged to share their food and monetary donations during the hour prior to performances on the evenings of July 10, 17 and 24 at the Grand Lake Community House to benefit local food banks.
I heard things went well for the Grand Theatre Company on the east side of the county as well (the company opened “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” last Friday).
You know the saying: “I laughed so hard I fell out of my seat”? From the lighting booth company co-owner Tanny Nanda said there was one man at a table who “was about to do just that.”
He said everyone during the murder mystery caper was laughing out loud, but that he actually had some concern “that this gentleman was in fact going to laugh right out of his chair. Fortunately, he did not,” he said. “There is an infectious magic to laughter,” he continued. “That’s why we love doing what we do.” Check out this week’s All Access for a preview of the Grand Theatre’s opening of “How I Became A Pirate” tonight.
This week’s winners for All Access Grand Giveaway Blues from the Top tickets (one for Saturday and one for Sunday) are: Cathy Flatt, Hanna Foley, Greg Foley, James Hale, and Victoria Jacobs.
Food for thought: “When the Oakies left Oklahoma and moved to California, it raised the I.Q. of both states.” – Will Rogers, Oklahoma native and famous actor. “I wanted to marry her when I saw the moonlight shining on the barrel of her father’s shotgun.” – Character Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma!”