Better than Just “Ok”
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” the perennial go-to for high schools and community theatres, has been around long enough now that it’s actually eligible for Social Security benefits itself. At the time of its birth in 1943, though, the musical marked a turning point between early 20th century “gags and gals” vaudeville and the later era of story-driven musicals with more dramatic elements. Glendale Centre Theatre gives the show a vibrant, well-grounded revival that’s a pleasant introduction for a younger audience and a sentimental treat for an older crowd.
As the cocky, charming, sing-ing cowboy Curly, Robert Standley still manages to evoke a genuine sense of a man who might actually be able to do a hard day’s work in the saddle when he’s not courting his beloved, stubborn Laurey (Heather Lundstedt). As is often the case in musicals like these, the supporting parts also shine brightly. Ann Myers brings an over-the-top vivaciousness to the flirty, vacuous Ado Annie. As the sly itinerant Persian peddler Ali Hakim, Danny Michaels is perfectly tuned to his audience and nearly steals every scene he’s in. August Stoten also does excellent work in finding the pitiable side of the menacing, sociopathic Jud Fry.
The list of songs that “Oklahoma!” inserted into the Great American Songbook is long and lovely, and this production gives them their due with the help of Orlando Alexander’s impressive choreography. There are elements of violence, surprising given the show’s overall fluffiness, but the happy ending is guaranteed.
“Oklahoma!” performs Thursday–Saturday at 8pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3pm, through July 11th at Glendale Centre Theatre (324 N. Orange St., Glendale, CA 91203). Tickets are $23-$26. For information, call (818) 244-8481 or go to www.glendalecentretheatre.com.