By Benjamin J.N. Harrison and Mr. Puar
On Thursday, 28 February, SDSS’ Equinox Theatre premiered Roger & Hammerstein’s 1943 musical, Oklahoma! with zeal, a stellar live orchestra, and a dynamic cast. While the blue cast would perform on later dates, the yellow cast kicked things off. We had the pleasure of watching the latter in action, but unfortunately could not catch any performances of the former; it should thus be noted that the following critique will focus solely on the efforts of the yellow cast and crew.
It’s 1906 in the southern United States on land that would soon become the state of Oklahoma; Curly McLain, a local ranch hand approaches a young farm girl named Laurey Williams optimistically. The two are infatuated with each other, but are both too stubborn to admit it. It is established that there will be a box social later that evening, and when Curly offers to escort Laurey, she refuses, as she believes Curly hasn’t style enough to do so. Thus, the depraved and misanthropic Jud Fry seizes the opportunity and asks Laurey to the dance; her, being too afraid to turn him down due to his intimidating nature, accepts.
Meanwhile, Will Parker is eyeing Laurey’s friend, Ado Annie; he is from Kansas City, and announces that he has just won the exact sum of money necessary to marry her, based on her father’s wishes. However, a suave young French peddler named Alain L’Heureux has caught her attention; unfortunately, Parker has spent the sum on her wedding gifts and is no longer a front-runner for her groom. Thus, a competition for Annie’s love ensues.
Seeing as though this is a historical musical, it should firstly be noted that Equinox’s yellow cast succeeded in transporting one to the early 20th century south. The rustic set design, paired with the mostly accurate costuming, aided with propelling one back to the intended era, as did the performers’ vernacular and cadence. While most of the actors were consistent in the way they spoke and presented themselves, there were certainly a few performances in which the accents changed throughout; and though this did not ultimately influence our general view of the play, it certainly brought one out of one’s immersion.
Moreover, Oklahoma! was set entirely to music from SDSS’ own live pit orchestra, which is an achievement in and of itself. While watching, we were not aware of this fact, and assumed the soundtrack was pre-recorded; it was not until the middle of the play that we realized, to our surprise, that our assumptions were incorrect.
Although the staging of the play was mostly successful, one thing SDSS’ Oklahoma! suffered from was a lack of clear fight choreography; the combat scenes could have benefitted from more preparation and tighter direction, as they unfortunately came across as amateur. Of course, Benjamin approaches this with some bias, as his father is a professional stage fight choreographer.
In summation, watching SDSS’ yellow cast perform Oklahoma! was a greatly entertaining experience. Despite its flaws, the acting was generally well-prepared, the live music was superb, the time period was realized, and a significant amount of enthusiasm was demonstrated by the students.
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