Monmouth Player’s ‘Oklahoma!’ is ‘thoroughly pleasing”

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Community Players put it
all together for big show

MONMOUTH — A thoroughly pleasing production of “Oklahoma!” bursts from the Cumston Hall stage, thanks to abundant talent and enthusiasm from Monmouth Community Players (MCP) under the solid direction of Josie French.

The timeless tunes of this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical get top-notch renditions by the leading players as well as from delightful performances by everyone in numerous supporting roles.
Joshua Oakes and Sarah Flagg are well-paired as the romantic lead characters, Curly and Laurey. John Lipovsky delivers a powerful performance as Jud Fry, the menacing hired hand. They are a solid foundation for the show’s many memorable contributions by a large and outstanding cast.
Whether courting Laurey or confronting Jud, Oakes brings ample theatrical authority to his portrayal of Curly. Likewise, Flagg’s fine soprano voice does full justice to the duets and solos that are remembered so well as done by Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones in the iconic wide-screen and Technicolor movie of 1955.
They do a fine job with “People Will Say We’re in Love.” Laurey and the girls sing “Many a New Day” and Curly opens the show with “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”
“Oklahoma!” is known as the first stage musical to integrate major dramatic elements into the format. That’s accomplished to full effect in MCP’s presentation by Lipovsky’s excellent representation of the tragically misunderstood Jud Fry. His duet with Curly (“Poor Jud is Daid”) sets up Jud’s forebiding solo number “Lonely Room.” Both dramatically and musically, Lipovsky’s participation is a paramount factor for the show’s success.
“Oklahoma!” also has a light-hearted side. Several actors make memorable appearances in the comic sub-plots
Megan Record plays Ado Annie, whose amorous attention falls on whomever she’s with at the time, as she explains in the song “I Cain’t Say No.”
Bill McLean, an award-winning actor, producer and film-maker, plays Persian peddler Ali Hakim to perfection. McLean and the boys and girls of the cast do a fine job on one of the play’s lesser-known songs, “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage!”
Danny Gay, a veteran of regional theatre, appears in his first MCP show. He plays Will Parker, who is Ado Annie’s determined suitor. The antics of these three … Ali, Annie and Will … are highlights of the show. Will and Ado Annie present a very entertaining rendition of “All Er Nothing’.”
Others with supporting roles are Henry Quintal as Andrew Carnes, Ado Annie’s gun-toting dad; Karen Lipovsky as Gertie, a girl with an unforgettable laugh;
Carol Griffiths is in her first MCP show, but she is a veteran of many fall musicals by The Theatre at Monmouth. Griffiths plays Aunt Eller, and she’s just right for the role. She’s a central character in the box social scene. She adds her vocal talent to “The Surry with the Fringe on Top” with Curly and Laurey and to a rollicking “Kansas City” with Will and the boys.
Dancing is also featured throughout the show. In big production numbers, every cast member, including second-graders Joshua Allard and Evelyn Smith, fill the stage and the aisles with fancy stepping. “The Farmer and the Cowman” is the high-stepping opener of Act Two.
Choreographer Melissa Guimond includes the “Out of My Dreams” ballet in this production, and it is danced beautifully by Anna Bernier, Sydney Bernier and Phoebe Gouette.
A full-bodied vocal arrangement of the musical’s familiar title song is excellent, with the whole cast serving up some beautifully soaring harmonies.
Musical director John Neal leads an eight-member orchestra, which is located at floor level, left side.
Remaining performances of “Oklahoma!” are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and students and may be purchased at the door or on the website, www.monmouthcommunityplayers.org. Cumston Hall is at 796 Main St., downtown Monmouth.

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