Entering the Fries Auditorium of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, theatre patrons are greeted by an orchestra wearing cowboy hats, a stage full of cornstalks, and a sign with the letters made out of rope announcing where they are – Oklahoma! The Grosse Pointe Theatre starts their 65th season with the classic show and the company did the Rogers and Hammerstein musical justice.
After a delightful overture by the orchestra, the cornstalks part to revel Aunt Eller, played by Laura Bartell, churning butter. Then Curly, portrayed by Steve Xander Carson, kicks off the show with "Oh What A Beautiful Morning." Carson is every girl's dream cowboy and has the curly hair to match the name of his character. He portrays Curly in an honest and truthful manner that makes the audience root for him to finally get the girl he has been chasing. Bartell's Aunt Eller steals the scenes with her little quips and smart comments. She has great comedic timing and the perfect facial expressions to go along with it.
Erin Ginger plays the female lead, Laurey, and has an incredibly gorgeous voice. Her singing is one of the highlights of the production. Carson and her compliment each other well and have great stage chemistry. Their rendition of "People Will Say We're In Love" is a very touching and cute point of the show.
This production is very well casted by director Don Bischoff. He brought a great cast together that really works well with one another. He also added a new element to the show by having children in it. His addition is well thought out and definitely added to the classic musical. The kids make the show more youthful than it already is and add a fun, playful element to it.
The cast as a whole is just a joy to watch. They really have fun onstage. Kevin Fitzhenry is amazing in his role of Ali Hakim. He is always in character even when he is not in the forefront and is just fantastic at his role with all the little nuances he does. Kate Connolly makes her Ado Annie Carnes vivacious with a big personality that fits the role perfectly. Catie Campbell-Cormier's wonderful ballet as Dream Laurey is not to be missed especially with her impressive leg extensions and graceful movements. Will's Girls, Nine White and Claire Yonkus, are dynamic duo on stage with fantastic dancing and are just plain cute. Brian Groth's performance of Jud Fry is incredible. He is such a believable actor that when he starts to sing his beautiful voice is surprising.
The sets are simple with muted tones, but a wise choice because it looks wonderful on stage with the bright, vibrant costumes. The costumes look very authentic for the time period in turn of the century Oklahoma. The girls wear shirts with piping and frilly skirts, and then their dresses are fancy, country ones. The guys have wonderful cowboy shirts and boots. The chaps they wear are very impressive with their intricate designs.
The Grosse Point Theatre does a superb job with their opening show. Oklahoma! is well casted, the musical is wonderful, and it is a visually pleasing show.
Oklahoma! opened September 16 and runs through September 30 at the Fries Auditorium in the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. For more information or tickets, visit www.gpt.org.