Dramatic musical ‘OKLAHOMA!’ lights up David Douglas High stage

See why this show is more than just great songs and dance numbers – and, why the director calls it an “actor’s musical”. Take a look at all these photos, and you’ll know why folks are snapping up tickets for the performances this weekend and next …

David Douglas High School Orchestra instructor – and the show’s musical conductor – Jennifer Mueller, watches the action on stage, preparing for a music cue, as the curtain goes up on their new production, “Oklahoma!”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
To the delight of outer East Portland audiences, the theater stage at the Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas High School (DDHS) has been decked out for the Theater Department’s winter show – the dramatic musical, “Oklahoma!”, which premièred on December 2nd.

The DDHS drama instructor – and the show’s Director – Judy LeCoq said she refers to the show as a “dramatic musical” because it’s more than just a song-and-dance show. “There are great songs, well-sung by our actors. But, the singers must be able to truly act – there are many dramatic moments in this play. Even the dance numbers tell stories.”

Even though it is an “actor’s musical”, LeCoq added, “It’s got a show with a ‘sing-along kind of feel’ – lots of toe-tapping tunes.”

Cowboy Curley McLain (Corey Taylor-Cedarleaf) comes in from the range, singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”.

It looks like Curley is getting the cold shoulder from his sweetheart, Laurey Williams (Rene Olson), who informs her Aunt Eller (Terran Jorgensen) that she’s miffed, because the cowboy hasn’t yet asked her to the upcoming box lunch auction.

A professionally staged show
As we watched the show, we were awestruck by the stage setting. The students of DDHS’ technical stagecraft instructor, and theater manager, Mark Taylor built out the stage well beyond the proscenium arch, to accommodate a cast of 55 student actors, singers, and dancers who often fill the space during the colorful dance numbers.

Professional lighting, and the unique, custom-crafted set, add to the production. “Mark Taylor came up with a wonderful, non-traditional set for Oklahoma! It’s fairly simple – but it is beautiful!” says LeCoq.

A crew of about 20 student technicians work behind the scenes, operating the following spotlights, the stage lighting, the sound, and the set management during the show. Add to that 30 more student musicians in the orchestra pit playing the score, the accompaniment, and the music cues – and you’ve got an entertaining, high-quality theatrical production that rivals shows mounted by colleges and professional theater groups.

Will Parker (Carson Cook) whoops it up, after getting back from his visit to the “modern” Kansas City.

Ado Annie Carnes (Tabbitha Sibrel), who promised to marry Will Parker, says she enjoys the affection of other guys because she’s “Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No”.

Aunt Eller listens while Ado Annie, the itinerate peddler Ali Hakim (London Bauman-Loughran) with whom she’s taken up with in Will’s absence – and Laurey – all talk about their romantic woes.

Pa Carnes (Justin Boek) “encourages” Ali Hakim to marry his daughter, Ado Annie.

Oklahoma! – About the story
Famed musical composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II joined forces for the first time to create this show, which opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for an astounding 2,212 performances. In 1955, it was made into a hit motion picture, staring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones in the lead roles.

The setting is the Oklahoma Territory, just before it became a state. It’s the story of footloose cowboy Curley McLain, and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams – adding a secondary romance between cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie, who is a friend of Laurey’s.

As in all love stories, dire situations threaten both romances – and indeed the central characters’ very lives. But, love and luck win out in the end – or do they?

Laurey confides in her Aunt Eller, as she tries to make sense of her romantic dilemma.

Curley has a suggestion for his romantic rival, gritty farm hand Jud Fry (Johnny Nguyen), politely suggesting that he just hang himself.

Special show honors past student actors
The DDHS Theater Department is putting out a special invitation to the cast and crew-members who were in the 1981 and 1996 productions of the same show, to join them on December 9 for a special celebration.

“After the show, join your former cast and crew members on stage for a current picture, to compare to pictures from 1981 and 1996,” LeCoq invited. “The Theater Department will provide original cast photos to every 1981 and 1996 cast-member who attends.”

Ali Hakim and Will Parker argue about who will win the bidding on Ado Annie’s box lunch, being auctioned off by Aunt Eller, standing in the wagon.

Yup, it looks like Curley and Laurey are finally getting hitched. But all isn’t as peaceful as it appears, as a drunken Jud – with mayhem on his mind – is about to enter, weapon in hand, and spoil the joyful moment.

Now playing at the Horner Performing Arts Center
The show opened on December 2nd, and the curtain goes up for evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on December 3 and 4 – and, again, on and December 9, 10, and 11.

> Or, you may want to attend the Family Matinee on December 5 at 2:30 p.m.

We’re told that the seats are going quickly, as word of this great show spreads – and some performances are now nearing sellout status.

Tickets are still just $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors. The Box Office at the theater is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (on school days) from 3:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Or, call (503) 261-8270.

The Horner Center Performing Arts Center is located at 1400 SE 130th Avenue (between SE Stark & Division Streets).

At the curtain call, the cast reprises the title song, “Oklahoma!”.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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