Oklahoma is more than just OK

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By Amy Hall | ahall135@radford.edu

‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!’ has become a theatre staple since it was premiered in 1943. With its homespun narrative, feel-good songs, and memorable characters, the musical has become interwoven into America’s cultural backdrop.

Leave it to the incredible students of Radford’s theatre department to create a fresh spin on a classic. The musical features stunning lighting and music that shows depth and emotion. The musical also features discharge of theatrical firearms, which made most of the audience jump when performed.

As soon as Mac McMullen sings the first note, you know you are in for a good time.

McMullen plays down-home, charming Curly McLain, the protagonist of our play. Alongside beautiful Sarah Coleman, who plays lovesick Laurey Williams, the two make magic onstage. Both actors showcase natural chemistry that makes it impossible not to root for their love story.

My favorite character is Aunt Eller, played by the impressive Robin Brooke.

Brooke is an extraordinary actress, who’s experienced ranges from voice acting to professional theatre acting. Her hard-nosed, yet loveable portrayal of Eller is a must see. Her character is a matriarch, often serving as a grounding character to her young niece. A heartwarming moment shows her maternal side when Laurey is unsure whether to accompany Curly to the social (dance) or not. Eller’s advice was to make Laurey’s decision based on her heart, and not to let herself overthink the invitation.

Laurey’s character is quite interesting, posing herself between two men. Jud Fry, she uses to make Curly jealous, unaware just how dangerous he is. She is constantly critical of herself and others. Especially Curly, who’s intentions she is unsure of. We see an interesting foil between her and her friend, Ado Annie, played by Victoria Unterberger.

When Ado Annie is introduced, she breaks into song, professing that she cannot keep her hands to herself when boys are around despite being ‘promised’ to cowboy, Will Parker, played by David Ratliff.

Laurey looks on in mild amusement at her friends’ antics but reminds her that she cannot betray Will.

During this same scene, we are introduced to the charming Ali Hakim, or the peddler, portrayed by Drew Callahan.

Ali is definitely a fan favorite. The audience burst into laughter every time he was on stage. After getting forcibly engaged to Ado Annie, Ali spends most of the play trying to get her and Will back together. At some point, he buys a picnic basket for fifty-one dollars, so that Will stops bidding for lunch with Ado Annie and keeps his money.

Jud Fry, played by Benjamin Sherman, is terrifying. This man is obsessed with Laurey, to the point where he dreams about her. He is a slob, with a startling pornography addiction.

When he gets angry, you get scared. When Laurey rejects him, his threat is real.

A ballet sequence happens in the middle of the play, and it is breathtaking. Each dancer adds a new, sophisticated layer to the choreography that tells the story of Laurey’s dream.

The way the characters move portrays their emotions, which makes the blank expressions of the ‘Postcard Girls’ even more unsettling in context.

After the lights went out, Oklahoma’s cast and crew made for an unforgettable experience. Without their hard work and dedication, this heartwarming show would not have gone on.

The next production is Make A Scene, starting Wednesday, April 27. Tickets are available two weeks in advance online and in the Porterfield box office.

Photo Credit: (Andrew Pence of Radford Univerity)