BOILING SPRINGS - Rodgers and Hammerstein's first - and one of their greatest - hits, "Oklahoma!," is back as Allenberrry Playhouse's late-summer musical.
The musical broke ground when Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II first brought it to the Broadway stage in 1943. It was the first modern "book musical," with the songs relaying the character's inner thoughts and lyrics an integral part to moving the storyline along.
I saw Allenberry's last production of "Oklahoma!" in 2005, which featured Stuart Landon as Curley. Even without an ounce of curly hair, Landon, who remains one of this area's favorite actors and is currently director of marketing at Open Stage of Harrisburg, was a convincing cowpoke who opens the show with "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin."
Shown is a musical scene from the Allenberry Playhouse's production of 'Oklahome!'
Isaak Wilson as Will Parker in the Allenberry Playhouse's production of 'Oklahoma!'
Unfortunately, neither Allenberry's current Curly (Peyton Thomas Tucker) nor bickering farm girl Laurie (Katie Sexton) are convincing. Both show stage presence, but are not believable characters when sharing said stage, and there is an apparent lack of chemistry between the two youthful actors.
However, both have fine singing voices. Tucker's tenor voice is fully displayed in "People Will Say We're In Love," and Sexton's fine soprano is evident in her best vocal "Many a New Day."
The strongest vocal performances come from the secondary characters, including Jill Taylor Anthony as Ado Annie, who gets the loudest applause with her riotous rendition of "I Cain't Say No!"; Jon McHatton as the villainous Jud Fry ("Poor Jud is Dead"); and Isaak Olson as the friendly Will Parker ("Kansas City").
The biggest and most inexcusable flaw is the lack of musicians to play the glorious score. Allenberry's orchestra pit consists of only two pianists, who can not come close to creating the full sounding accompaniment.
However, set in the Oklahoma territory of 1906, this production has good-looking sets and plenty of prairie props, including the "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," a four-wheel covered carriage.
Choreography also is top-notch, including the "Dream Ballet," which ends Act I, and "The Cowboy and the Farmer," which opens Act II. The ensemble always energetically prances and dances around Allenberry's stage.
Sarah Norris directs the show, which has a lengthy running time, including Act I's nearly 90 minutes.
Despite some stirring singing, colorful secondary characters and energetic choreography, "Oklahoma" is flawed by woefully short-changing the show's biggest asset - its familiar and rousing score. This is the main reason that Allenberry's "Oklahoma!" is only "OK" entertainment.
Allenberry Playhouse is noted for its murder-mystery weekends, its yummy sticky buns and its three summertime musicals.
Tickets may be bought by calling the theater box office at 717-258-8120 or at www.allenberry.com.