On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a performance where you literally fall asleep and 10 is a show that makes you laugh out loud the entire time, the performance of Oklahoma! by Rio Rancho High School ranks a high 7.
Historically, Oklahoma! was Rogers and Hammerstein's first musical. It opened on Broadway in 1943 and was later made into a film starring the choreography of Agnes de Mille in 1955. It is set in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906 and it is a comic filled love story between the cowboy Curley McLain and the farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance occurs as well between Will Parker and his overly flirtatious fiance Ado Annie. The story follows the youth in the town of Claremore as they prepare for a dance including an auction to raise money for the school. It ends in three marriages and a death.
The performance by Rio Rancho High School was extremely enjoyable. The stage was full of energy, the live pit orchestra was spot on, the scenery was beautiful to look at, and the actors gave me everything I would have hoped for from this age group (and sometimes more).
I would not feel right without giving due credit to a few outstanding individuals. Firstly, when I heard Lillian Ridout sing as Laurey, I hoped that her song would never end. Her work and practice in developing such a great voice was very apparent. I hope she continues to sing her whole life! Secondly, Chris Cates' performance as Ali Hakim was quite possibly the best rendition I have ever seen. He played the perfectly pleasant portrayal of all sides of a peddler: looking out for the best deal and for himself. His comic relief was exactly what the show needed. Finally, the dancing of Daniel Blake as Will Parker in the early Kansas City Scene was very noteworthy.
I was really impressed with how deeply uncomfortable I was with the character Jud Fry. Likewise, it is ridiculous characters like Ado Annie that make this show memorable. Coming from a dance background, I was most looking forward to the "Dream Scene" when the indecisive Laurey finally comes to realize who her heart truly desires. The dancing and lighting of this scene did not disappoint in the least.
The scene that I feel this group performed the very best was the scene where Curley was being judged. The actors were so great about performing their lines in such rapid succession following one another that the audience couldn't help but be truly present in the moment. Thus, it was so easy to get caught up in the rapid fire jokes being passed around. Aunt Eller's joke about bending the law rather than breaking it was my favorite of the night!
There were a few issues with the microphones and being able to hear lines clearly over the orchestra, but that was only a small problem. The one thing I would have wanted more of was more choreography in almost all the songs. Regardless, this performance was extremely enjoyable and I wish these actors and actresses the best of luck in their future productions!
Make sure you give some a "Persian Goodbye" or an "Oklahoma Hello" today!