The Boardmore Playhouse was packed, which is saying a lot for a Tuesday night, for the opening performance of Oklahoma!. With music, ballet, fights, a ho-down and almost fifty actors giving it their all, it’s easy to see why.
There were a number of stories happening throughout the play, each with interesting characters. Some particular stand-outs were Aaron Corbett’s portrayal of Ali Hakim – a shifty peddler of various “goods.” Each time Corbett entered a scene, before he even did anything, the audience would laugh. Aaron’s ability to create a likable character – even in a scoundrel like Hakim – made watching his story develop a treat. Jenna Currie’s Ado Annie had a similar effect. Each of her lines was hilarious, and, despite being another ridiculously ill-moralled person, she was instantly and consistently enjoyed.
There were far too many great performances in this show to list them all, but I would like to give special mention to, what I consider, an under-expanded character: Jud Fry. This character had a lot of depth, something that is not entirely common in early musicals. He was treated poorly, hated by most everyone that met him, for no true reasons – he was just “lowly.” It only makes sense when he eventually snaps and can no longer take the mistreatment. The character was brought magnificently to life by the larger-than-life James Monroe. I only wish there were more scenes with this character, especially between Jud and Curly. The chemistry between the two actors for the “Poor Jud is Daid” number was highly enjoyable.
Another interesting part of this show was something that I rarely see, especially in plays, and that is full ballet number. I’ve always been told that ballet told a story in itself, but I had never really noticed it. The “dream ballet” ending Act I truly did show the inner feelings of Laurey, being torn between two suitors – one whom she truly wants to be with, one whom she fears to turn away.
While the play was praised and highly enjoyed by the huge audience, it was felt that the play was a bit too long – running at over two and a half hours. Part of this is in the fact that, as mentioned in a preview article for this show, it is one of the first modern American musicals. It isn’t as polished and streamlined as later musicals would become. Perhaps an update, or editing of the script used could have cut down on this feeling.
That being said, Oklahoma! is a true piece of theatre history, and this production at the Boardmore Playhouse delivers it quite well. There will be showings Friday and Saturday night, starting at 7pm, and a matinee at 2pm. Tickets are available at the Boardmore Playhouse box office.