We all know the songs - about the beautiful morning, the fringe on the surrey, people saying we're in love - and we like the cowboy boots and hats, the humorous lines and the distinction of having a state song that comes from a hit Broadway musical.
Add to that the fact it's our state's Centennial, and staging Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" at East Central University during Statehood Week is a natural.
The musical about life in a territory about to become a state will be performed in the Dorothy Summers Theatre at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday [NOV. 14-16] and at 2 p.m. Saturday [NOV. 17]. The doors will open 30 minutes before curtain time.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children and senior adults. Group rates are available and ECU faculty, staff and students are admitted free with valid ECU ID cards. Seats may be reserved by calling 580-559-5483 on weekdays.
"It's a great way to celebrate the Centennial," said Dr. Delma Hall," associate vice president for academic affairs and the show's director. "It makes you think about the people who were here when Oklahoma did become a state. It shows the rivalry between the farmers and the ranchers, although the play is not real, and their pride in becoming a state.
"When 'Oklahoma!' is sung with such gusto," she added with a smile, “it makes you want to stand up and sing because it's so much fun."
ECU Band Director Allen Correll will conduct the Theatre Wind Ensemble. Dr. Victoria Dansby, associate professor of communication, is the choreographer and Dana Ayers, instructor of communication, is musical director.
"We wanted something we could use to celebrate the Centennial with the community of Ada," Hall said. "We wanted to do something memorable, something reminiscent of statehood, and we wanted to do it with the community as ECU's part of the celebration," she said.
About a dozen community members, counting children, are in the production.
"They sing all the way from their toes," Hall said. "There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. They create excitement when they're singing. They are a treat to hear.
"It's fun because we all know the songs and we all want to sing along."
Ada freshman Matt Sweatt will play Curly, a handsome cowboy who asks Laurey, a pretty farm girl, to a box social. Laurey, played by Edmond senior Mary Beth Richardson, accepts, but fearing reprisals from Jud Fry, Curly’s rival, she decides to go with Jud, portrayed by Kelvin Wood, a Tipton freshman.
"This show's got something for everyone," Hall said. "Singing, dancing, romance, a killing, a trial and a happy ending."
Joseph Terrell, an Elmore City freshman, is cast as Will Parker, a cowboy who wants to marry Ado Annie, the girl who "cain't say no," played by ECU graduate Crystal Johnson of Wellston. Christopher Geisler, a Newalla junior, will be Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler who is almost forced to marry the amorous Ado Annie by her father, Andrew Carnes, played by Randall Christy of Ada.
Ali Hakim's "Persian goodbye" and Will Parker's "Oklahoma hello" are among the comic highlights of the show, Hall said.
Nancy Postier of Ada will play Laurey's Aunt Eller. Other cast members are Amanda Tarver, Chandler, Ariz., junior as Gertie Cummins; Molly Bonar, Ada senior, as Kate and the understudy for Laurey and Ado Annie; Lauren Durbin, Atoka freshman, As Ellen; Sherri Scott, Sapulpa senior, as Vivian; Randy McCurdy of Ada as Cord Elam; and Jomain McKenzie, a freshman from Jamaica, as Fred.
Members of the chorus include Mindy Vires, Ada freshman; Sharon Olds, Wellston sophomore; Natalie May, Prague freshman; Angela Marshall, McAlester freshman; Erin Ketner, Purcell senior; Katie Hooper, Purcell freshman; Brooke Haygood, Norman junior; Whitney Fletcher, Mounds junior; Joy Crabtree of Ada; Randi Christy, Ada sophomore; Kyra Childers of Ada and Ada High School students Delaney Donoghey, Karissa York and Kire Stenson.
The children's chorus includes Adryn Ingle, Daniel Carpenter, Destiny Carter, Madee McGill, Meredith McGill, Abby Penprase, Kristen Smith, Paul Snyder, Delanie Ayers, Madison Yates and Cristine Teel.
Hall said the cast sometimes has two or three rehearsals a day to work on music, the script’s dialect and dancing.
"For six weeks, for five or six days a week on the average, they rehearse three to four hours a day," she said. "That's not counting learning their lines. It's really time consuming for six weeks. But when they come on stage and do so well, they are rewarded because the audience reacts to them so positively."
Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs, "Oklahoma!" is unique in several ways. Before it debuted at the St. James Theatre on March 31, 1943, musicals usually assigned a generic song, dance or comic number to almost any character or situation.
In "Oklahoma!" and musicals that followed, the songs and dances are based on the characters rather than just the story, and are integrated into their emotions, not included just because a song or dance is needed in the show.
"Oklahoma!" also was the first musical to run more than 2,000 performances and the first to have its score recorded. It also began a trend away from urban, sophisticated or satiric character types toward rural settings and more sincere characterizations.
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