Review: ‘Oklahoma!’ at John W. Engeman Theater

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The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport is closing its 10th season with the rousing classic, Oklahoma! With book and lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein, this beloved musical has been a family favorite for generations, and the Engeman’s production is no exception. Directed here by Igor Goldin, with fun and energetic choreography by Drew Humphrey, Oklahoma! is a triumph.

Kaitlyn Davidson and Jane Blass in Oklahoma! Photo by John W. Engeman Theater.

The plot is set in the Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the century. It is a land of dust and grain, of cattle ranchers and farmers. A place where hardworking people live and work together, where tensions run high, and so does attraction. Curly and Laurey are in love, and the whole town knows it, but they won’t admit it to themselves or each other. Trading insults and flirtations, they skirt around their feelings, each hoping to make the other bend first. When farmhand Jud Fry starts paying his addresses to Laurey, she sees a perfect opportunity to make Curly jealous. But when Jud’s obsession gets out of hand, the dangerous turn of his behavior threatens the happiness of all involved. A sweeping tale of romance, pride, stubbornness and hope, Oklahoma! is a must see for the whole family.

The cast of this production is phenomenal. Bryant Martin is a wonderful Curly. His cheeky grin and confident swagger bring his charming cowboy character to life. His fantastic voice reverberates throughout the theater from his opening number of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” directly into “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” and straight through to the “Oklahoma!” finale. The famous duet “People Will Say We’re in Love” between Curly and Laurey, played to perfection by Kaitlyn Davidson, is an absolutely lovely addition to the performance, played with just the right combination of humor and tenderness. Davidson’s beautiful soprano also rings out in “Many a New Day,” while her exquisite facial expressions and body language competently portray her character’s emotions.

Oklahoma! Photo by John W. Engeman Theater.

Chris Brand and Brianne Kennedy play the lovable but dim-witted couple of Will Parker and Ado Annie. Their pleasing voices and excellent comedic timing are exhibited not only in the duet “All er Nothin’,” but also in their individual numbers of “Kansas City” and the iconic “I Cain’t Say No.” Peddler man Ali Hakim is amusingly performed by Danny Gardner. His humorous number “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage!” is superbly done as a solo of verbalized thoughts.

The hearty-but-tender Aunt Eller is portrayed with enviable skill by Jane Blass. Her dry-humored character adds a touch of sarcastic comedy to her lines and numbers, notably “The Farmer and the Cowman.” The infamous Jud Fry is impressively played by Nathaniel Hackmann. His raw and sporadically uncontrolled emotion, combined with an imposing presence, make for a remarkable performance. His strong vocals thrum in the haunting number “Lonely Room.”

D.T. Willis’ stunning wooden set works perfectly for this production, and is gorgeously highlighted by the work of Lighting Designer Zach Blane. Great costumes by Matthew Solomon and sound by designer Laura Shubert round out the entire show. The band, here conducted by Jeff Theiss, performed this iconic score magnificently. Oklahoma! is a fabulous show that has maintained its popularity for decades.

The Engeman’s production Oklahoama! – this well-known and much loved classic – should definitely not be missed.

Running Time: 3 hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Oklahoma! plays through June 25, 2017 at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport – 250 Main Street, in Northport, NY. For tickets, call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or purchase them online.

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