A Beautiful, Faithful “Oklahoma!” at The Wick
By Skip Sheffield
Oh, “Oklahoma!” is one of the greatest American musicals of the 20th century. You can see an exemplary production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic through April 26 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“Oklahoma” was the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein. It also was the first Broadway musical choreographed by Agnes de Mille when it debuted in 1943. Not only was the show a critical and popular success; it received a special Pulitzer Prize and changed the face of American musical theater.
Director-choreographer Norb Joerder has remained faithful to the original script while working within the limitations of the Wick Theatre. These limitations include pre-recorded music, directed by Michael Ursua. For a score so memorable, it is scarcely noticeable.
Jan Parmenter and Lindsey Bliven both make their Wick debuts in the lead roles of cowhand Curly and his lady love and landlady, Laurey. The setting is Oklahoma Territory 1906, and the main event is a box social, in which picnic baskets prepared by the ladies going to the highest-bidding man, who also gains the pleasure of the woman’s company.
Curly and Laurie are made for each other, but loathe to admit it. Curly is a bit too cocky and prideful. Laurie doesn’t want to be seen as a pushover.
There is a complication in the form of ranch hand Jud Fry (Shane Tanner), a moody, troubled man who lives alone in a bunkhouse decorated with racy pictures of women of easy virtue.
Parmenter is very handsome and Lindsey Bliven quite lovely, and they both have requisitely pleasing voices. However it is Shane Tanner who has the most powerful voice among the males, which gives his dangerous Fry added power.
Missy McArdle grounds the whole production as loving, wise-cracking Aunt Eller. Necessary comic relief is provided by James Young as the lecherous, crafty Persian peddler Ali Hakim and Leah Sessa as Ado Annie, the “girl who can’t say no” to Ali’s dubious charms.
Annie’s rightful match is Will Parker (Alex Joth), who simply adores her, but it will take time for Annie to appreciate what she has.
Of special note are Lindsay Bell (who is also Dance Captain) and Tommy Joscelyn, performing the dream ballet sequence created by Agnes de Mille to show the idealized Laurie and Curly. The couple is simply, exquisitely beautiful.
There is a lot of beauty, plenty of laughter, unforgettable songs and some serious moments in this “Oklahoma!” It is a great night of theater.
Tickets are $58-$62. Call 561-995-2333 or go to www.thewick.org.