Oklahoma! at Goodspeed Opera House

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Today I review Goodspeed Opera House’s revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, ‘Oklahoma!’ If you are unfamiliar with ‘Oklahoma!,’ it’s a tale of love on a frontier farm in 1906, back when the west was still wild.

And I’m happy to tell you that leading lady Samantha Bruce gives a stand out performance. She is a joy to behold as Laurey Williams, the love interest of Curly, as played by Rhett Guter- who works hard to be charming. He does get there but it shouldn’t appear to require so much work. Two other terrific performances are by Terry Burrell, as Laurey’s mom, Aunt Eller, and by Gizel Jimenez as Ado Annie- who is pure fun to watch.

 (l to r: Rhett Guter, Samantha Bruce)

In the role of Jud, the creepy bad guy who is needed to stir some drama into the story with his pursuit of Laurey, Matt Faucher turns in a fine performance in a thankless role- though the audience did reward him with a big ovation at the end, and he deserved it.

Two other performers are also worthy of mention. Matthew Curiano plays the peddler- and frustrated ladies man- Ali Hakim. Curiano’s facial expressions alone are enough to make the audience erupt in laughter. The part requires being on the hammy side and Curiano nails it without going overboard. And C. Mingo Long as Ado Annie’s shotgun-toting father is superb. It’s not a big role but he is excellent and makes it funny- and a lot of fun, too.

Goodspeed’s sets and lighting are excellent as they create a sunny halcyon vision of a frontier farm in pre-statehood Oklahoma and, befitting the story, the corn is piled high.

Goodspeed is famous for their exceptional dance numbers. Here they have a few terrific ones but I didn’t feel every number was nailed, and they usually achieve that so I’m not sure why Katie Spelman’s choreography falls a bit short. Everyone in the cast and ensemble are energetic. The full cast is close to 40 performers and all are clearly talented. That is a credit to casting but also director Jenn Thompson who moves the large cast around efficiently- no small feat with this many performers.

photos: Diane Sobolewski, Goodspeed Musicals

The orchestra, as usual, sounded full and marvelous under Music Director Michael O’Flaherty.

And those Rodgers & Hammerstein songs! This is the show that gave us ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’,’ ‘People Will Say We’re In Love,’ the title song and more.

So you have many reasons to make the drive to East Haddam- as well, of course, for the gorgeous setting right on the Connecticut River.

I give ‘Oklahoma!’ at Goodspeed 3-and-a-half stars out of 5. It was just extended through September 27th, so this is a hot ticket! For tickets or more info, visit Goodspeed.org.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.

This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”