By Madeleine Powell
The Mira Costa Drama Department’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” succeeded in breathing new life into a classic and truly beloved musical. The heartfelt acting, spectacular singing and dancing and overall production value made for an invigorating take on a timeless classic.
“Oklahoma!” follows the romantic story of a cowboy named Curly (Robert Diehl) and farm girl named Laurey (Isabel Gray) in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906. Written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “Oklahoma!” opened on Broadway in March 1943. Lead characters in the Mira Costa production also included also included Ado Annie (Daisy Hummer), Will Parker (Cameron Plank) and Jud Fry (Connor Tree).
Although the plot was in no way modern, “Oklahoma!” was enthralling in its portrayal of life in the country at the turn of the twentieth century. It was reminiscent, and beautifully depicted a time of uncertain hope as a group of people worked to create new lives in an unknown territory.
The lead actors and actresses blew the audience members away with their powerful vocal performances. Gray in particular stood out with her incredible stamina and exceptional ability to deliver a polished and passionate performance throughout the show, even after countless demanding musical numbers.
The dances also remained impeccable throughout the production. Choreographer Christopher Albrecht created lively dances that added to the joyful performances. The cast as a whole demonstrated their incredible dedication and determination with the precision with which they executed the undoubtedly difficult dances.
Another of the production’s many strengths was the sheer talent of the lead actors. The versatility of Diehl and Gray was clearly demonstrated as they shifted from lighthearted banter to tense, emotional conflicts as quickly as one musical number ended and the next began.
One of the most amusing aspects of the performance was not even presented onstage. As audience members entered the auditorium, they were warmly greeted by students donning Western garb using charming accents. This welcomed audience members and appropriately set the scene for a wonderful show.
The actors’ talents were so great that they did not even depend on dialogue to convey a message. During the “Dream Sequence” at the end of Act 1, Dream Laurey (Molly DeSimone) expressed Laurey’s distress about her love life without using spoken word. Instead, Laurey’s concern was revealed through an alluring dance that captivated audience members and added a whimsical touch to the show.
The skillful musicianship of the pit orchestra, who played the musical score accompanying “Oklahoma!,” was consistently demonstrated as they painted a lush background for the color of performers’ voices without overpowering them.
The set was highly fitting of the time period “Oklahoma!” was set in, and the costumes were well-thought out and skillfully made. The lighting work and smooth transitions by the Tech Department were the glue that held the show together.
“Oklahoma!” was a delightful and compelling show, with the incredible talent of the drama and tech department and the old-fashioned, yet interesting storyline. From the opening line to the curtain call, “Oklahoma!” exceeded all expectations and was truly a jaw-dropping and astonishing production.