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Rogers & Hammerstein

Artisan Center Theater

Director – John Wilkerson
Executive Producer/ Artistic Director – Dee Ann Blair
Associate Producer – Natalie Burkhart
Associate Artistic Director – Cody Walker
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Rehearsal Stage Manager – Megan Guerra
Production Stage Manager – Hannah Simpson
Choreography – Elise LaVallee, Kristi Smith
Set Design – Steve Skidmore
Illuminations Design – Doug Vandergrift
Costume Design – Nita Cadenhead
Wig Design – Parker Gerdes
Props Design – Amy Luckie
Light Design/ Illuminations Programing/Sound Design – Natalie Burkhart
Set Construction – Eric Luckie, Steve Skidmore
Scenic Painter – Connie Sanchez
Master Trick Roper – Anthony Lucia
Sound Operator – Karen Woolley
Photography – Al Smith
Graphic Designer – Brian Blair

Curly – Aaron Knight
Laurey – Madie Stelzer
Ado Annie – Jessica Cope
Will Parker – Chase Williams
Jud Fry – Brendon Ramsey
Aunt Eller – Denise Jasper
Ali Hakim – Philip Trejo
Andrew Carnes – Deedle Muncrief
Cord Elam – Ian Nance
Ike Skidmore – Sean Malloy
Fred – Duncan Parkes
Tom – Andrew Villa
Mike – Travis Miller
Slim – John Coffey
Joe – Stephen Jakubik
Gertie – Dana Rice
Dream Laurey – Michelle Dulin
Dancer 1 – Catherine Langley
Dancer 2 – Dani Duda
Dancer 3 – Whitney Morris
Dancer 4- Claire Ferguson
Dancer 5 – Hannah Baker
Kate – Meg Jakubik
Ellen – Katy Hill
Virginia – Ann Dickman
Vivian – Alyssa Meekins
Ensemble – Sami Duda, Laura Parkes, Sarah Wood

Reviewed Performance: 9/1/2018

Reviewed by Kathleen Morgan, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

You know a show is pretty magnificent when it can captivate audiences 75 years after it was first created. Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is a classic, and its production by Artisan Center Theater was nothing short of sheer delight. The actors were exceptional and exceptionally well cast, the leads had palpable stage chemistry, and the comedic timing was superb. Since I had never seen a stage production of this show and it had been many years since I saw the film, I was concerned that I might find this musical hokey and a somewhat dated. If you find yourself falling into the same trap, pull yourself out right now! This show is hilarious, full of energy, and shows us the timeless nature of romance, jealousy, and falling in love.

The venue itself is a cozy theater in-the-round, meaning that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house! The set was simple, utilizing 3 corners as Aunt Eller’s house, Jud’s room, and a barn, respectively. Creatively using all the available space, there was a photo projection of farmland and crops that changed throughout the show depending on what time of day the scene was taking place. Each character’s costume was fitting of their personality and time period, truly making you feel as if you stepped back in time onto the old American frontier. These thoughtful touches helped bring the show to life.

The first scene opens with the crisp, clear voice of Curly (Aaron Knight) echoing across the prairie in the iconic song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” Everything about Knight’s performance was spot-on. He embodied the spirit of a tough, stubborn cowboy stuck on a sweet and equally stubborn farm girl. One of my favorite numbers was his duet with the radiant Laurey (Madie Stelzer) in “People will Say We’re in Love.” This was the first scene where their hardness melted away into something sweet and tender, leading to a captivating stage chemistry. Stezler’s songbird-like soprano voice was lovely and thrilling in every number. She particularly shone during “Many a New Day,” (a song making you think that the idea of an ‘independent woman who don’t need no man’ isn’t anything new).

Entering the show like a whirlwind, Ado Annie (Jessica Cope) stole every scene she was in. Throughout “I Can’t Say No,” Cope was as winsome as she was rambunctious. Her belting voice dazzled and kept the audience laughing throughout the evening. Her on-again, off-again counterpart, Will Parker (Chase Williams), showed off his singing and dancing chops in “Kansas City,” delivered with so much energy that I’d say he “went about as fur as he could go!” The interplay between these two was fun and wild all night long. Philip Trejo expertly played Ado Annie’s other beau, Ali Hakim. Trejo pulled off the part of a man who’s cornered into committing to a woman through unwittingly being on the wrong end of her father’s shotgun, a situation he bemoans in “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage!” Of course, this doesn't stop him from continuing to flirt with Ado Annie even in front of her betrothed. These three characters brought an air of levity whenever they were on stage.

Serving as the anchor of the show as well as the plot, Aunt Eller (Denise Jasper) was brilliant and fun. Besides being Laurey’s mother figure, she is a loved and respected member of the community. Confidently played from start to finish, Jasper had me wishing there was someone just like her in my own community! Equally convincing was Brendon Ramsey’s performance as Jud Fry, the farmhand for Aunt Eller. As the show progresses, you get a kind of sick feeling about Jud. From his gruff mannerisms to the way Laurey is clearly disturbed by him, Ramsey genuinely had me creeped out- exactly how his character should make one feel. His number with Knight, “Pore Jud is Daid,” had the audience in stitches. Never before have I heard a song that was so somber and yet so hilarious in context. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to Gertie (Dana Rice), at one time Curly’s date, and another, Ali’s wife. Her perpetual stream of “unique” laughter was impressively on-point.

One of the best parts about this show is its multitude of catchy company numbers, including “The Farmer and the Cowman,” which was excellently led by Andrew Carnes (Deedle Muncrief), the protective father of Ado Annie. “Kansas City” featured the male ensemble (Stephen Jakubik, Travis Miller, John Coffey, Andrew Villa, Duncan Parkes, Ian Nance, Sean Malloy) who delighted the audience with their rowdiness and wild dance steps. Certain numbers such as “Many a New Day” featured the female ensemble (Meg Jakubik, Katy Hill, Ann Dickman, Alyssa Meekins, Sami Duda, Laura Parkes, Sarah Wood) who overall delivered beautiful arias though at times lacked the robustness and energy present during the full company numbers. The dancers (Catherine Langley, Dani Duda, Whitney Morris, Claire Ferguson, Hannah Baker) performed marvelously throughout the show, most notably in Laurey’s Dream Sequence. Dream Laurey (Michelle Dulin) practically floated across the set, so delicate and graceful were her movements.

Artisan Center Theater’s Oklahoma! was a true delight. The music stays with you for days after you see it, much like Aunt Eller’s advice, “You can’t deserve the sweet and tender in life unless’n you’re tough.” Whether or not you’re already familiar with this show, go see it! You will love it- it’s everything musical theater should be.

Artisan Center Theater
August 31st – September 29th
Monday thru Saturday, 7:30pm
Artisan Center Theater – 444 E Pipeline Rd, Hurst, TX

To purchase tickets, visit the Artisan Center Theater site
Adults: $22 – Children under 12: $10