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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 23rd, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 20 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 20

The fantastic frontier: PCPA Theaterfest presents the idyllic musical Oklahoma in all its musical glory

By JOE PAYNE


THE EMOTION OF MOVEMENT
A dream sequence includes fabulous dancers Alex Stewart and Katie Wackowski playing Curly and Laurey.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LUIS ESCOBAR/REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY

The monumental influence Rodgers and Hammerstein have had on American musical theater is staggering. So many popular tropes and styles were cemented by the duo; their influence can be seen in myriad contemporary works today.

PCPA Theaterfest has gone back to the roots of the famous collaborators with a production of their first play, Oklahoma!, which shows at the Marian Theater through the weekend before moving to the Solvang Festival Theater for most of August.

The iconic show opens with a beautiful demonstration of collaboration between scenic designer DeAnne Kennedy and lighting designer Michael P. Frohling, who together summon the dawn with the rise of the musical overture. The golden haze of the meadow brightens as we begin this day in frontier-era Oklahoma, and a series of quaintly simple set pieces are assembled to create the façade of a farmhouse, out of which strolls Aunt Eller, a delightfully folksy Kitty Balay.

As Aunt Eller begins her day with some farmyard chores, she’s greeted by the sound of a rousing tenor voice, that of the cowboy Curly (George Walker), who welcomes the dawn with one of the most popular songs from Oklahoma!, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” Curly is at Aunt Eller’s first thing not just to joke and sing, but with hopes to ask her live-in niece Laurey to the dance social event happening in the evening. He wants to ride with her. When Laurey (Jackie Vanderbeck) arrives outside the house, she doesn’t appear too enthused to see the puffed up young cowboy—rather the opposite. 


HOME ON THE RANGE
Kitty Balay, George Walker, and Jackie Vanderbeck (pictured left to right) play Aunt Eller, Curly, and Laurey, respectively, in PCPA Theaterfest’s production of Oklahoma!
PHOTO COURTESY OF LUIS ESCOBAR/REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY

This is the dynamic of these two young people, obviously in love. Walker exudes confidence as the cocky young cowhand who playfully denies his feelings. Vanderbeck immediately asserts her character as a strong young woman who won’t be easily wooed by chaps and a swagger, and displays a singing voice that equals Walker’s in strength, clarity, and welcoming timbre. The two banter back and forth with jibes and melodies alike, truly owning the show from the outset.

As the day progresses, we meet more agrarian characters, such as Jud Fry (Galloway Stevens), Aunt Eller’s farmhand, who has an impure interest in Laurey. We also get introduced to Ado Annie Carnes (Karin Hendricks), who is strapped to the arm of the Persian peddler Ali Hakim (Joseph Cannon), but is conflicted after the return of Will Parker (Jake Delaney), her former boy toy. Ado Annie relates her conflicted feelings to Laurey in hilarious song, which Hendricks enjoys with gusto.

Unfortunately for Ado Annie, Ali Hakim isn’t too keen on being with her for the long haul. Ali Hakim, portrayed with great humor by Cannon, is a bit out of his element in the Oklahoma territory, with his freewheeling lifestyle clashing with the tradition of shotgun marriages. Will Parker is hoping to marry Ado Annie, but her shotgun-wielding father and her enjoyment of flirting with other cowboys, not to mention competing with Hakim, are obstacles he approaches with as much intelligence as the bronco-riding young man can muster.

Catch the show
PCPA Theaterfest presents its production of Oklahoma! showing through July 26 at the Marian Theatre and Aug. 1 through 24 at the Solvang Festival Theater in Solvang. Cost is $29.50 to $37.50. More info: 922-8313 or pcpa.org.

Ado Annie and Will Parker serve as a comic foil to Curly and Laurey’s romance, which is further complicated by the deep, brooding jealousy of Jud Fry. The conflict heats up as the evening brings the social dance. That the director of the production, Michael Jenkinson, also choreographed the show is evident. The full-cast dance numbers are a spectacle and a rousing match to the music, which was recorded under the direction of Callum Morris. There’s a sequence in which Laurey falls asleep and has a dream about her romantic dilemma in which Laurey and Curly’s characters are taken up by different actors—Katie Wackowski and Alex Stewart—who dance the parts rather than speak them and display a supreme skill of classical dance forms.

PCPA Theaterfest’s Oklahoma! is an example of the conservatory’s ability to meld many art forms together and take the cobwebs off a classic with plenty of playful, contemporary flair. The show moves to the open-air Solvang Festival Theater in August, which is an ideal venue at which to view this show about wide-open spaces and the people who call them home.

 

Arts Editor Joe Payne is in the market for cowboy boots. Contact him at jpayne@santamariasun.com.




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