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THEATRE REVIEW: “Oklahoma!” at the Welk

Some of the voices in Welk Resort Theatre’s “Oklahoma!” are as big as the wind whipping down the plains, even if the small stage can’t quite convey the spaciousness called for.

“Oklahoma!” was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first venture together into the field of musical comedy, one they would define and call their own for decades after. It was Rodgers and Hammerstein who first used songs to reveal character and advance the plot in musical comedy. “Oklahoma!” opened in 1943, ran for more than five years, and has been a staple ever since.

This is a story about cowmen and farmers in 1906 (a year before Oklahoma statehood), when a guy’s biggest problem was getting the right girl to go to the box social with him. If the plot seems dated, the music is forever; if the characters are a bit stereotypical, it’s still fun watching them go through their paces.

The main cowman is Curly McLain (Allen Everman) – a tall, handsome “feller” with commanding stage presence as well as a fine voice and convincing delivery.

Curly has his eye on Laurey Williams (Kailey O’Donnell), a beautiful girl with a gorgeous voice and a hard-to-get attitude. Curly has help from Laurey’s Aunt Eller (Robin LaValley), but the fly in the ointment is wannabe beau Jud Fry (Will Huse), whose gruff and demanding manner frightens Laurey. Huse plays him with much more humanity and vulnerability than is often seen … and a wonderful voice that would be at home on the opera stage.

Another colorful character is Ado Annie (Sydney Blair), the flighty girl who “cain’t say no.” Sweet on her is another cowman, Will Parker (Andrew J. Koslow), who creates amusement with his efforts to come up with the $50 cash her dad Pa Carnes (RC Sands) requires before he will consent.

Rounding out the cast are the peddler Ali Hakim (Ariel Neydavoud), selling the usual assortment of nostrums, ladies’ underwear and who knows what-all, and giggly Gertie Cummings (Nicole Renee Chapman).

“Oklahoma!” is old school in both attitude and orchestration, and something is lost without a full orchestra. Still, Music Director Justin Gray and his three colleagues produce good sound, just not enough.

Mojica gets plenty of energy from his youthful 16-member cast. Some of these characters invite overplaying, and a few actors give in, particularly Blair’s Ado Annie and Neydavoud’s Ali Hakim.

Mojica’s dance numbers could use more space, but the lariat-twirling in “Kansas City” and Arielle Meads’ lovely dream ballet fare nicely, and the final scene in which Curly and Laurey ride off into the sunset in that surrey with the fringe on top brings the show to a happy close.

The details

“Oklahoma!” plays through Nov. 16 at Welk Resorts Theatre San Diego, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido, California.

Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm.

Tickets: (888) 802-7469 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.