The Saloon Dancers, (from L to R: Nadja Simmonds, Courtney Johnson, Jordan Louden Matts, and McKenna Johnson) try to attract the attention of Jud Fry (Issac Shapiro) in the "Dream Ballet." Photo provided courtesy of Dan Ledbetter Photography.
Get ready to swing your partner and dosey-doe because here comes Walnut Hills High School’s production of “Oklahoma!” With stunning voices and a glittering cast, this show proved itself to shine.
This upbeat musical takes place in the heart of the West in the in the early 1900s when the territory of Oklahoma was emerging as the possibility of statehood. The show begins with Curly, a charming cowboy, who tries to win the heart of Laurey, a young stubborn woman; but Curly isn’t the only man vying for Laurey’s affections. Jud, a hired hand, becomes infatuated with Laurey and will do anything to get her. Many other love triangles and disputes between the farmer and the cowman occur, but the shows overall message is to show the goodness of people and the promise for a better life.
From the first act to the last, the cast of “Oklahoma!” remained vigilant, harmonious and brought energy to the show consistently. The cast’s vision to keep the characters down to earth as much as possible in order to prevent their personas from being overly embellished was well received and enriched the understanding of the show. The choreography fit the show perfectly and was consistently harmonious; the cast’s vocals and impeccable ability to blend their numerous parts really carried the show.
If there was one contribution that Nick Witzeman had for the show and his character Curly, it was charm. His ability to have blunt honesty throughout the show was seamlessly delivered with a genuine sincerity causing him to be extremely personable. Laurey played by Erin Speno brought her voice to new heights with outstanding vowel shape.
When the cast wasn’t performing beautifully choreographed ballet numbers or coming together in perfect vocal harmony, Ado Annie played by Maddie Eaton was lighting up the stage. Eaton’s accent captured the south without over-exaggerating it and her ability to change flawlessly from her accent to her falsetto voice presented a beautiful, well rounded sound, all the while staying in perfect pitch. The way that Eaton portrayed Ado Annie, as a ditzy, innocent and playful young woman, was well received; it helped further develop her character, as well as provide comic relief throughout the musical. Also, bringing comic relief was Ali played by Austin Lamewona, whose accent was also unwavering, but sometimes hard to understand, but each character brought the musical to new heights.
Throughout the production one of the most memorable scenes was Laurey’s dream ballet, but it wouldn't have been as powerful if not for the lighting. From the striking reds to the soft yellows, the lights brought new life to the show which was able to perfectly convey the mood through the show. As well as the amazing lights, the orchestra was phenomenal. It never overpowered the actors and stayed steadfast throughout the show. The set was simple yet fit the show perfectly and focused the attention on the actors and allowed them to lead the show.
Walnut Hills High School’s production of “Oklahoma!” was a toe-tapping, heart racing show, which presented the unforgettable characters that reside in the heart of America.