Oklahoma! – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If it had been about Michigan or Mississippi, history would have been quite different. If the title hadn’t been changed from “Green Grow the Lilacs” and “Away We Go,” it might not have won a Special Pulitzer Prize for Drama or become the first Broadway musical honored with a commemorative U.S. stamp. If millions of people hadn’t flocked to see it, it might not have been translated into over a dozen languages from Hebrew to Hungarian.

Now celebrating over seven decades of popularity is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s gift to American musical theatre, one of Broadway’s longest running shows, “Oklahoma!”  Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam will be decorating surreys and picking elephant high sweet corn until Wednesay, September 27th in an effort to make this a remarkable theatrical experience, one not to be missed. This is pure Americana at its best.

This production, beautifully directed by Jenn Thompson and choreographed with spirit and spunk by Katie Spelman is guaranteed to present the sunshine of the Oklahoma prairie from the dawn of each “oh, what a beautiful morning” as the farmer battles the cowman for supremacy in the territory trying to reconcile how both can live together and be friends.

Love swirls around the Box Social as Will Parker (Jake Swain) bargains for the picnic basket made by Ado Annie (Gizel Jimenez) and Curly (Rhett Guter) and Jud (Matt Faucher) try to outbid each other for Laurey’s (Samantha Bruce) offering. While Ado Annie has to deal with the fast talking salesman Ali Hakim (Matthew Curiano), Laurey’s dilemma with the sullen farm hand Jud and the energetic and engaging Curly poses the show’s real conflict in an otherwise sunny and optimistic landscape. A kindly Aunt Eller (Terry Burrell) and a feisty Andrew Carnes (C. Mingo Long) try to keep the folks peaceful.

Songs like the show stopping title “Oklahoma!,”  “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,”  the lovely duet “People Will Say We’re in Love” and the comic “I Cain’t Say No!” attest to why this show is a classic family favorite. A intriguing ballet poignantly ends the first act. The cast is awesome and the festivities abound with joy tinged with sorrow.

For tickets ($29 and up) call the Goodspeed Musicals, on the Connecticut River in East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. . Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select shows at 2 p.m.), Friday at 8 p.m.,  Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.,  and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select shows at 6:30 p.m.).

If you weren’t lucky enough to be at the show’s premiere at New Haven’’s Shubert Theatre on March 15, 1943, don’t compound the mistake by missing this outstanding opportunity to climb aboard the most famous surrey with the fringe on top and merrily ride into musical history.