OKLAHOMA!by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
The Firehouse Theatre
Director – Michael Hollomon
Music Director – Donna McWilliams
Choreographer – Amy Cave
Stage Managers – Nicholas Villermarette & Patrick Bohmier
Costume Designers – Stefanie Glenn & Courtney Holleyman
Technical Director – Jason Leyva
Lighting Designer – Branson White
Set & Properties Designer – Jason Leyva
Production Manager – Rebecca Lowrey
Aunt Eller – Cathy Pritchett
Curly – Tyler Jeffrey Adams
Laurey – Alexandra Cassens
Ike Skidmore – Don Heitzman
Will Parker – David Bates
Jud Fry – Robert San Juan
Ado Annie Carnes – Rebecca Paige
Ali Hakim – Hunter Lewis
Gertie Cummings – Kristi Smith Johnson
Andrew Carnes – Pat Watson
Cord Elam – Steve Cave
Ellen – Caroline Cave
Mike – David Moore
Virginia – Chandler Bates
Kate – Kate Dressler
Vivian – Amy Cave
Fred – Jiovanni Briones
Slim – Sean Malloy
Ensemble – Wilma Yarrington, Samantha Young, Andrew Cave, Emily Derrick, Vivien McCartney Bates, Jake Bonneau
Photo credits: Jason Anderson, Pendleton Photography
Reviewed Performance: 7/24/2015
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The venue for the Firehouse Theatre is a city-owned building that once housed a fire station. A small, proscenium stage graces the front of the intimate theater. Theater seating is abundant, although not on risers, so occasionally it is difficult to see all of the action on stage. At this time, the theater is awaiting installation of adequate air-conditioning, so audiences should dress lightly and be prepared for a warm, but tolerable climate.
The set, designed by Jason Leyva, encompasses the entire stage and consists of a small porch, that of Aunt Eller and Laurey’s home, a water tower, and the back of a shed which is on wheels and reveals Jud Fry’s smokehouse abode when needed. Scenic painting on the back wall depicts a field and blue sky. Leyva was also props manager. The inclusion of a real surrey with fringe on top and a peddler wagon, although interesting, seemed unnecessary within the confines of the small stage. The use of a modern climbing rope was a noticeable stray from the period and setting in which this play’s action takes place. Conversely, the weapon used when a shotgun was called for was actually a black powder musket, which was almost ridiculous in length and distracted from the action when the actors wielded it.
Lighting throughout the performance, designed by Branson White, was exactly as needed and always on cue. The only time the actors’ faces were in the dark were when the action called for it and a nice rotating effect during the dream scene was helpful for establishing the break with reality.
Costumes by Stefanie Glenn and Courtney Holleyman were sometimes confusing. For the most part, the actors were dressed in period costumes, but some of the women wore skirts that were far too short for the period. Laurey’s costume for a good part of the performance consisted of capri-length overalls and very contemporary dress boots. While the establishment of Laurey as a tomboy with the overalls made sense, the modern design of the overalls and the fact she was wearing boots suitable for indoor events, rather than those of a woman who wanders a farm was distracting.
Choreography by Amy Cave was nicely done. There were times when the stage was just too small for a large dance scene, but the ensemble dealt with the constraints well and it was clear that the design of the choreography itself was of high quality. During the wedding scene of the dream sequence, the choreography was also helpful toward enhancing the meaning of the action, with women in black veils dancing with grim grooms delivering an effect suited to the emotions of the dreaming Laurey.
The talented work of musical director, Donna McWilliams, was evident as each musical number was delivered impeccably. The amount of work that went into each note and harmony was revealed with each song as the ensemble performed the music seemingly effortlessly. This only happens after hours of practice and expert guidance.
The cast was well chosen by director, Michael Hollomon. In fact, the chemistry between all of the members of the ensemble was strong as they all performed non-stop with high energy, despite what must have been extreme conditions in costume, under bright lights, and dancing frequently. The blocking design was nicely done – there was never a moment when an actor obscured a view or seemed wrongly placed.
There were several stand-out performances. Two actors who performed equally well and were at the top of my list were Tyler Jeffrey Adams as Curly and Robert San Juan as Jud Fry.
Adams had a strong and warm singing voice that went well with his good looks and charm. With each sidelong glance, knowing wink, or frustrated shrug of the shoulders, Adams created a believable performance which was extremely entertaining and just what it would seem Rodgers and Hammerstein had in mind when creating the character. During the duet, “People Will Say We’re in Love”, Adams’ voice and style was perfectly combined with the soprano of Alexandra Cassens in the role of Laurey, and was one of the more memorable musical pieces of the evening.
San Juan’s frenzied glances added a chilling element to the scenes in which he was a part. The character of Jud Fry is interpreted in various ways, and San Juan’s Fry was a cognitively challenged man with radical reactions to situations, going from calm to screaming in seconds. San Juan delivered an expert rendition of “Lonely Room” with his low, strong voice and emotional facial expressions. Any time San Juan was on stage, the action took a turn toward the uncomfortable, which is exactly what is called for in the script.
Cassens’ portrayal of Laurey was adequate to the storyline and always on target. She delivered her lines and sang her songs as fitted the character. However, the performance never quite delivered an extra energy or the memorable elements I would have liked to see from her performance.
Rebecca Paige’s performance as Ado Annie was extraordinary. She was a perfect choice for the role with her cute face, red hair, and ornery expressions to engage the audience. Her voice was also quite beautiful and her performance in “I Cain’t Say No” was thoroughly enjoyable.
Paired with Paige was David Bates as Will Parker. Bates’ performance was spot on in every way. There was never a moment when Bates failed to deliver with extreme energy. His facial expressions and good-ol-boy looks of confusion added comedy in several places.
Cathy Pritchett portrayed Aunt Eller convincingly. I have seen performances of Oklahoma where Aunt Eller skewed a little too weak or a little too strong, but Pritchett dialed in exactly the right amount of sass and compassion for a believable performance as the woman who keeps the farm running.
Hunter Lewis performed his role as Ali Hakim, the traveling Persian peddler, with continuity. Although I took his accent and mannerisms, which reminded me simultaneously of Andy Kaufman and two wild and crazy guys from Czechoslovakia, to be a little too comedic, Lewis’ commitment to the style of his portrayal was strong and he never strayed from it.
Overall, the Firehouse Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! is well worth a family outing or evening with a significant other or friend. With a brief intermission, the time investment is about three hours, but with the extreme energy of the ensemble and strong performances, the time flies by.
The Firehouse Theatre
2535 Valley View Lane
Dallas, Texas 75234
Runs through August 2nd
Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 pm, matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 pm
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $16 for students.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.thefirehousetheatre.com or call the box office at 972-620-3747.