“Oklahoma!†takes the stage

By Marissa Novel

A young, hopeful cowboy wanders into Aunt Eller’s yard singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling that everything’s going my way!” It’s the night of the box social, and he’s got Laurey on his mind.

The McLeod Summer Playhouse opened its first of four musicals, “Oklahoma!”, on Friday.

Set in early 20th century prairie territory, the musical follows Curly, a cowboy, Laurey, a farm girl, and their budding romance as the two dance around their emotions only for an unexpected third party, a brutish farmhand, to step in.

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Wes Drummond, associate artistic director and choreographer for the show, said singing and dancing often comes before acting in musicals. He said this is not the case in “Oklahoma!”

“I could not ask for a better cast,” he said. “I tell them every day that they’re my ‘Oklahoma!’ dream cast because there’s not one of them that I would trade because they’re all so perfect for the roles that they play and they bring such a realness to each character. It’s really nice to watch what feels like real people living their lives.”

Drummond said this production has been his favorite of the four he has been involved in.

“I think it’s an ‘Oklahoma!’ that people can relate to, an ‘Oklahoma!’ that if you don’t like ‘Oklahoma!’, it’ll change your mind,” he said.

Drummond has directed and assisted in other shows where he lives in New York City such as “Oliver!”, “Les Miserables” and “Ca$h, Comfort, Sex”.

Adler Roberts, who plays the role of Curly, said he enjoys the collaborative process the playhouse offers.

“Sometimes, in other places that I’ve worked, an artistic director will have a very set idea of what they want and won’t be open to artists bringing their ideas to the table as much,” Roberts said. “But at McLeod it’s been very constructive with everyone working together.”

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Roberts, of Overland Park, Kan. said this is his first summer working for the playhouse. He will also be performing in the musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot” in July.

Associate Professor Thomas Kidd, who serves as the managing artistic director for the playhouse, said the rehearsals and set production for the show took about three weeks after casting began in early March.

Deirdre Rose, 56, who plays Aunt Eller, said Kidd personally asked her to audition because he wanted an age appropriate performer for the role.

“There’s something an older actress can bring to a part where she’s had some life under her belt,” said Rose, who is originally from New York City and trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

The show will continue through the weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a 2p.m. show on Sunday at the McLeod Theater. The playhouse will feature three more productions this summer; “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, “Charlotte’s Web”, and “Anything Goes”.

Tickets cost $25 for adults and $10 for students, which can be purchased from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the McLeod Theater or SIU Arena box offices, online at playhouse.siu.edu or by phone at 618-452-6000.

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.

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