Featuring a cast and crew of about 45, the Fairfax Academy for the Arts will present the musical, “Oklahoma!” and co-directors Mike Replogle and Suzy McCarthy say it’s going to be something special.
“Most of the kids have theater experience and are trained singers, dancers and actors,” said Replogle, who directs the Academy’s Musical Theater Actors Studio. “And the music by Rodgers and Hammerstein is so memorable and powerful that it paints a picture that’s grand and sweeping.”
The curtain rises Friday-Saturday, Feb. 18-19; Friday-Saturday, Feb. 25-26, at 7:30 p.m. each night; and Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m., at Fairfax High. Advance tickets are $8 at www.fxplayers.org or $12 at the door.
“The students are doing a great job,” said McCarthy, who just retired after three decades as Lake Braddock Secondary’s musical theater director. “The show will be a joy to watch. It’s a timeless classic with well-written characters and a storyline that just flows.”
“Oklahoma” takes place in the late 1880s as the territory is becoming a state and the farmers, cattlemen and cowboys are trying to live together in peace. It also follows two love stories. Laurey is torn between Curly and Jud, and Ado Annie must choose between Will and Ali. In the lead is junior Anne Norland, who’s excited to portray Laurey.
“I’ve wanted to play this role for a long time,” she said. “I’m looking forward to doing the dream-ballet and showing the relationship between Laurey and Curly, the cowboy. They’re friends who eventually fall in love, but the audience will wonder how they’ll end up together after a practical joke/mistake goes too far.”
Laurey lives on a farm with her aunt and is spunky and independent. “She’s also kind to the farmhand, Jud, even though he’s intimidating, and she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings,” said Norland. “And although she’s naïve for most of the show, she’s fearless and stands up for herself when she has to.”
“Many a New Day” is Norland’s favorite number. “It’s sugar-sweet with sarcastic undertones,” she said. “And the girls have worked diligently learning the dance.” Overall, said Norland, the audience “will find the energy and enthusiasm on stage impressive. They’ll also enjoy the memorable songs sung beautifully, and, even though it’s a show everyone knows, it’s a new approach.”
Junior Kaitlin Nelson is Norland’s understudy, but will get to perform Laurey on stage, too. Nelson describes her character as still growing up and headstrong. “She doesn’t know what she wants or who she wants to be with,” said Nelson. “She’s a romantic at heart, but doesn’t like to show it; she doesn’t want Curly to know she’s really longing for him.”
From Oklahoma in real life, Nelson auditioned for this show because “I’m new to the school this year and wanted to make friends, and it’s been a great experience. And Laurey’s a complex character, transitioning into womanhood, so she’s interesting to play. You have to focus at all times and know that certain characters she interacts with trigger different responses.”
Nelson especially likes the song, “People Will Say We’re in Love,” which Laurey sings with Curly. “At first, she’s teasing him with the words,” said Nelson. “But later, she means them, and it’s a beautiful melody, too.”
Portraying Ado Annie, in a role shared with Ruthie Rado, is senior Alanna Ross. “People don’t understand Ado Annie because she likes to be with lots of guys, but she’s just not sure which person she wants,” said Ross. “She can only focus on the man she’s with and she’s easily distracted. She’s not the brightest bulb, but she has a great heart.”
It’s Ross’ first lead role and she’s thrilled about it. “Ado Annie loves to have fun, and I get to act crazy and come out of my shell more,” said Ross. “And it’s fun partnering with Jason Rath and Ryan Elci, who play Will and Ali, her two love interests.”
Ross’s favorite number is “All or Nuthin” because “It’s me and Will bickering in song and it’s fun to do.” As for the show, she said, “I think everyone will love ‘Oklahoma.’ Everyone is really good at what they’re doing and that’s why we’re in the Academy program.”
The Academy’s dance director, Andrea Heininge, choreographed the dream-ballet sequence, and McCarthy staged the musical numbers. “The students are very talented,” said McCarthy. “This group has picked up the blocking faster than any other group I’ve ever taught.”
This was the first musical created from a book, instead of the music coming first, “It was the first show to incorporate song and dance as part of the storyline,” said Replogle. “Oklahoma was a rough place then. It had the James Gang and Indians, and settlers had to fight, so they had to be really tough to live there. Yet they supported each other.”
“So this is a joyful story with a lot of comedy in it, and that reflects the community they lived in,” he said. “And I’m hoping that inside of us still lives the feeling of this more simple time.”