Keeping theatre alive and kicking at Westfield High School, theatre students are preparing for the spring musical “Oklahoma!” with auditions just a week after the closing of the comedy Arsenic And Old Lace. There is no better way to end the year than with a high-energy musical about the life of the “farmers and the cowmen” during early 20th century America, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II in their first of many collaborations.
Zoë Dillard directs “Oklahoma!,” which will play May 19 and 20 and 8 p.m. and May 21 at 2 p.m. in the Westfield Theatre. Casting takes place in March, with the actors rehearsing for two months before the May 19 opening.
“Oklahoma!” premiered on Broadway in 1943 and ran for 2212 performances. It has enjoyed three successful revivals since then. It was the first musical to successfully integrate plot, music, characterization and serious dance in a full production. At Westfield, more than 125 students from all areas of the performing arts — theatre, choral, band, and orchestra — are getting involved as actors, technicians and musicians in the production. Although the show made its debut more than 60 years ago, the show’s themes of teenage love and adventure still appeal to today’s teenagers. Westfield’s performing arts educators collaborating to produce the show include director Dillard, musical director Jessica Lardin, pit orchestra director Charles Chaffin and technical director Scott Pafumi. Yvonne Henry is the choreographer and Cheryl Cordingley is the stage manager.
Dillard’s vision for “Oklahoma!” centers around authenticity. Some of what made this show so meaningful to its original Broadway audience was the ability of the book, score and dance to support one another in creating a world of authentic, honest human characters that are more complex and “real” than in previous musicals. “This is mostly a story about young people; and we have lots of those at Westfield,” Dillard said. “It is also a story about the complexities of love, the endurance of community and the sense of universal decency and hard work ethic of people living in the Oklahoma Territory, a land of promise and opportunity, fresh air and corn fields. This show is a part of our heritage as Americans — imperfect people from many different places, who still believe that anything is possible with enough hope, hard work and good humor.”
“Oklahoma!” is a perfect ending to a year of great American classics presented by Westfield Theatre students including “Our Town,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and the award-winning one-act “Cowboys #2.