Theatre Review: ‘Oklahoma!’ at JCC CenterStage

Oklahoma!,” written in the early 1940’s, portrays a small farming town in the Indian Territory before Oklahoma received statehood in 1906. It highlights old fashioned ideals such as men are brave, women have their place, and this social contract is the underpinning of a successful and strong country. As the territory marches toward the formal veneer of statehood amidst general lawlessness, the men and women are grappling with upholding a veneer of propriety amidst feelings of love and lust.

The singing was wonderful throughout.

The two main characters are a farm girl, Laurey Williams, and a young rancher, Curly McLain, who would like to be her beau. Laurey (Abby Rice), and her friend Ado Annie Carnes (Jennie Gilardoni) are of marrying age but have very different perspectives on relationships with men. Laurey is a bit naïve, and is charmed by a farmhand with a dangerous reputation, Jud Fry (Benjamin Pesce). Laurey feels Curly (Jordan Bachmann) is a little too cock-sure and agrees to go to the box social dance with Jud to spite him. Ado Annie has been playing the field a bit while her beau, Will Parker (Chris Martin), is away in Kansas City. A peddler, Ali Hakim (Drew Jensen), and she have been flirting to the point that Ado Annie’s father strongly suggests they marry. Will returns to town in time for the box social dance hoping to claim Ado Annie’s hand.

The plot follows these two lovers’ triangles through darkness, fear, bawdiness, laughter, and one long and strange laudanum-induced dream sequence that was a little like how I imagine an acid trip might feel. The classic songs we all know, even if you have never seen “Oklahoma!,” weave through the show accompanied by lively dancing and exciting, acrobatic fight scenes. The singing was wonderful throughout. Mr. Bachmann and Ms. Rice performed beautiful renditions of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.” The live musical accompaniment—including banjo, guitar, and violin—was just the right touch to bring this musical down on the farm. Go see it and absorb the optimism of young people marrying and states being formed amid the chaos of life.

Approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes (including a 15-minute intermission).

“Oklahoma!” runs until May 19, 2019 and is presented at JCC CenterStage Theater in Rochester. For more information, click here.