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T H E A T E R   R E V I E W  -  Oklahoma!  -  The Shakespeare League of Pasadena

 
        
SAN GABRIEL, CA - For almost 60 years, The Shakespeare League of Pasadena has been producing top-notch musical theatre productions donating the proceeds to local charities of the San Gabriel Valley. This year's production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma will have your toes tappin' and your hands clappin.' Produced by Tanya Danforth, no detail is overlooked - from the fabulous sets to the colorfully detailed costumes. 

In case you need a refresher course, the principals are Curly a cowboy, farm owner Laurey and hired hand Jud, who's neither cowboy or farmer but an outsider. Curly and Jud's rivalry begins when both men vie to take Laurey to a box social. It culminates in a fight to the death and ends well for everybody except Jud. What makes the story memorable is the way the characters come alive as an embodiment of the American frontier spirit of community, optimism and patriotism.

The opening image of Aunt Eller (played with no-nonsense charm and energy by Judy Norquist) alone on stage as she churns butter immediately establishes the sense of the still desolate and developing frontier. The action begins with the beautifully resonant voice of Philip Schneider singing "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" to Aunt Eller, as waits to see the charming, yet spunky Laurey played by Benita Scheckel. Her voice is amazing, adding a certain depth to the character that is rare but essential for a musical with such a heavy plot. Her stage presence is captivating from the moment she enters the first scene to the climax of the musical. Together with Mr. Schneider, their blend and harmony is a delight.

Playing Ado, the girl who just can't say "no," is Janet Clark. The interplay between Ado and the other two members of her love triangle is quite humorous. First, there is the love struck and financially destitute Will Parker (Sam Cavanaugh) who will do anything to get Ado back. Darrell Clark plays the traveling salesman Ali Hakem, who probably wishes Ado could have said "no" to him.

Another notable performance is that of George McWilliams who plays one of the most complex characters in musical theater: the emotionally disturbed Jud Fry. The rest of the cast is excellent: featuring John Campbell, Tom Crosby, Jonathan Kelley, Robert Linker, Dan Russo, Nancy DeForest, Jim Stacy, Harry Baldwin, Jim Cudlip and Diana Loomis. The chorus/dance ensemble also hold their own throughout the production, especially during the dynamic dance number at the beginning of Act II, which is worth the price admission. 

Benita Scheckel and Philip Schneider

    

        

 

 

   

  

   

  

   

    

Although the ensemble staging is a bit stiff at times, the overall production from the lighting to the sets is quite good. Rikki Lugo has provided the cast with some wonderful choreography, and the orchestra, under the direction of Richard Allen, is outstanding. Director Bill Shaw has created a wonderful production for the Shakespeare League this year. He has a clear understanding of classic music theater: so for those who love this staple of American theater, you won't be disappointed. - Michael Upward  Printable View

   

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Michael Upward is a staff writer and the Chief Editor for Maestro Arts & Reviews. He is an award winning composer and musical director having worked in theaters throughout the Los Angeles area.  He currently writes and produces music for Encore Maestro Entertainment and is also working on a new musical to be premiered later this year. 
 

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