“Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” it is in “Oklahoma!” “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow …” and the cowboys, farmers and women are singing about the “heart and hope” of their beloved blue skies and prairie land. Happy cowboys and energetic young women danced their way across the stage as Oakton High School brought acres of cornfields and the endless possibilities of the West to life with their production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 musical, “Oklahoma!”
Curly (Henry Ragan) playfully teases the zestful country girl Laurey (Holly Kelly) as they both toy with their charmingly secluded love for each other. To spite Curly, Laurey hesitantly accepts to go to the box social dance with the harrowing, lonely farm hand Jud. Meanwhile, cowboy Will Parker (Spencer Waters) returns from Kansas City with $50 of prize money, hoping to marry his dear Ado Annie (Esther Workman), the town’s flirtatious youth. From love fiascos to happy endings, “Oklahoma!” is vibrant, comical and full of 1940’s Western pride.
Playing the young frontier girl Laurey, Holly Kelly showed her strong, powerful voice as she hit high notes with ease and maintained an accent right out of an ol’ country western. Her jovial energy was well contrasted with her convincingly disturbing scenes with Jud. Curly McLain, played by Henry Ragan was not only deeply in love with Laurey, but this cool, unruffled cowboy had a deep voice that echoed loud and clear from his opening ballad “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” to his eerie duet with Jud “Poor Jud Is Daid.” His consistent accent was serene and reminiscent of a typical Oklahoman cowboy.
Tall, dark, and creepy, Jud’s grim character, played by Ari Veach brought an uncomfortable chill to the stage with his low voice and glowering visage that embodied many curious evils. Ari Veach’s performance, singing “Lonely Room” and duet with Curly, was dark in a moving, empathetic way. From a somber grimace to his physically intimidating control of Laurey, Veach’s understanding of Jud’s character was very convincing. Adding hilarity with good comedic timing was Kevin Sol who played the peddler, Ali Hakim. His presence on stage was always greeted by laughter. Sol’s jocular energy and upbeat presence was entirely charming. The flirtatious, full-of-love young woman, Ado Annie has an eye for men, and the bubbly Esther Workman encapsulated her quick paced, passionate banter. Her loud, bright voice rang full of excitement in her hilarious rendition of “I Cain’t Say No!” Running across the stage, chasing boys, she was full of Ado Annie’s friendly confidence.
Weighing half a ton, the sturdy house stood on stage with a homely feel that added to the cast’s familial attitude. The orchestra was efficient and pleasantly involved with the cast, with their cowboy hats and well-timed cues. The entire ensemble finished the night singing “Oklahoma” and the harmonies were sweet and delightful.
Oakton High school’s production of “Oklahoma!” was grand, and rendered memories of life in a “brand new state”… with “flowers on the prairie” full of the good ol’ country hospitality, cowboy hats and boots and chaps. The cast of Oklahoma gave it “All Er Nuthin” and had the audience singing along in agreement that everythin’ was “Oklahoma, O.K.!”