The year is 1906 and settlers stream into the territory of Oklahoma. Tension between farmers and cowboys runs high as the two groups squabble over boundaries and water rights. Enter a cowboy, Curly, and a farm girl, Laurey, who can't deny their attraction to one another but are too proud to act upon it. To complicate matters, bring in a hot-tempered farm hand, Jud, who also falls for Laurey. Add a sizable helping of catchy songs and it all adds up to the pivotal Broadway musical "Oklahoma!"
"I think it has some unforgettable characters. It's a classic good guy versus bad guy. It's got all the themes of love, despair, hope and celebration. All of these, if you look at it, are what makes a good story," said Mary Lynn Luke, who is directing the upcoming production of "Oklahoma!" performed by the Oxford Youth Singers and Singing Children.
Presented by the Arts Association in Newton County, "Oklahoma!" will be performed on Friday, March 28, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 30, at 3 p.m., with a junior version of the show scheduled for Saturday, March 29, at 7 p.m., at Porter Hall on the campus of Newton High School, 140 Ram Drive.
The undertaking is a monumental one. The 100-member cast comprised of the Oxford Youth Singers and Oxford Singing Children hail from 15 different schools. They range in age from fourth grade to high school seniors. In addition to the two performance groups, students from the Covington Regional Ballet will also perform a dance, adding yet another dimension of talent to the mix. Music for the show is performed live by a trio of percussion, bass and piano.
"It takes a lot of work," said Luke, who is aided by assistant director and choreographer Jay Tryall. "Set design, costumes, blocking, props, choreography, lighting, sound - all of those are in addition to preparing the music, which is what people come to hear when they see a musical."
The first collaborative effort between composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, "Oklahoma!" debuted in 1943 and served as the first musical to include singing and dancing that propelled the storyline instead of incorporating numbers that simply expounded upon what characters had already expressed.
The songs were also some of the first to gain recognition in both the fields of musical theater and pop music, said Luke.
"One of the things that made 'Oklahoma!' unusual is that the songs crossed over onto the Billboard charts, like 'Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin',' 'People Will Say We're in Love' and 'The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,'" said Luke. "So right along side Elvis Presley and big band music you had 'Oklahoma!' a Broadway musical."
Luke, who served as musical director for "Oklahoma!" several times during her tenure as a choral teacher in Rockdale County schools, said she chose the show because it offered enduring musical numbers, "big" choreography and lots of opportunities for all of the students to gain musical theater experience.
"The music is well known and the songs are classics in musical theater," said Luke.
Admission to "Oklahoma!" is $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $8 for students and children. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Arts Association in Newton County at 770-786-8188 or visiting www.newtoncountyarts.org.
Contact Karen Rohr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
What: "Oklahoma!" presented by the Oxford Singing Youth and Children and the Arts Association in Newton County.
When: Friday, March 28, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 30, at 3 p.m.; a junior version of the show will be presented on Saturday, March 29, at 7 p.m.
Where: Porter Hall on the campus of Newton High School, 140 Ram Drive
Cost: Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $8 for students and children and can be obtained by calling the Arts Association in Newton County at 770-786-8188 or visiting www.newtoncountyarts.org.
Songs from "Oklahoma!"
"Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"
"The Surrey with the Fringe on Top"
"I Cain't Say No"
"Many a New Day"
"It's a Scandal! It's a Outrage!"
"People Will Say We're in Love"
"Poor Jud Is Daid"
"Out of My Dreams/Ballet"
"The Farmer and the Cowman"
"All er Nothin'"