When the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! opened on March 31, 1943, one New York critic wrote that the musical was “a beautiful and delightful show, fresh and imaginative”.
Now, nearly 70 years later, that praise will once again ring true as students of San Juan High School present the first musical ever written by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
SJH brings an impressive array of talent to the production, especially with the voices of the lead parts. Curly is played by Braxton Brown, who has been a member of the Riverton’s Children Choir and Hold That Note. He recently performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of a SJH basketball game. He opens the play with the classic song, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”.
New to SJH, Ashia Rowland plays the part of Laurey. Before moving to Blanding, Ashia’s voice helped win her the title of Miss Hurricane. She has participated in community and high school theatre since childhood and was a member of a performing group called The Force.
“I’m really excited to have this part,” Ashia says, “As a cast, we have had lots of fun and we want the audience to have fun with us.”
Aunt Eller’s part is played by Brooke Lyman. Lyman has high praise for Kayla Vernon, SJH’s new drama teacher.
“As a director, Mrs.V is brilliant,” Lyman says, “She is always so positive. She is dealing with over 40 kids, and she not only comes away smiling, she leaves us smiling. She really knows how to run a drama squad.”
Vernon, who is musically talented in her own right, directs both the acting and the music. The choreography is student directed. Pianists Jacque Moses, Denise Johnson and Annette Teare will accompany the songs.
The part of Will is played by the effervescent Koy Nielson, who is a veteran actor. Of the three musicals he’s been in, he says, “This has been the most challenging, but my favorite.”
Carsyn Endres, also an experienced actor and strong personality, is well cast as Ado Annie.
Every good play needs a villian and Bogh Bayles makes an impressive Judd Fry.
Set in Oklahoma in 1906, the play addresses the early rivalry between cowboys and farmers. It tells the story of cowboy Curley McLain’s romance with a farm girl named Laurey, who must choose between him and a farm hand named Judd.
A second featured romance is that of cowboy Will Parker, and his fickle fiancée, Ado Annie.
The play won Rodgers and Hammerstein a special Pulitzer Prize and has remained popular through the years. It is well suited for a high school production, as the majority of the characters are young adults. However, the musical is demanding of its performers with over a dozen songs and five choreographed numbers.
The production will be held in San Juan High School’s auditorium, Monday, February 25 to Friday, March 1, starting at 7 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the door. The cost is $3 for students and children, $5 for adults and $20 for a family pass.