‘Oklahoma!’ is rich with ‘social thought,’ good music

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Saddle up and trot right down to Lyric Arts Main Street Stage for a fun-filled, foot-stomping musical steeped in a large dose of romance and a clash between two opposing factions. This is not the Jets vs the Sharks. The Democrats vs the Republicans. Nor is it the vampires vs the werewolves.

Despite their different backgrounds, farmer’s daughter Laurey Williams (Stephanie Wipf) finds love with cowboy Curly McLain (Philip Skretvedt). Photo courtesy of David Setness

It’s the cowboys and the farmers. And why shouldn’t they be friends? At least that’s what the townsfolk of Claremore, Okla.,  profess in a tongue-in-cheek song in the time-honored classic “Oklahoma!”

The show, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein’s first musical collaboration, opens Feb. 17 and runs through March 18. Lyric Arts veteran Dann Peterson returns to direct.

Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” the musical’s plot centers on Curley McClain, a proud cowboy, setting his cap for farmer’s daughter Laurey Williams. But conflict between the two groups, the cowboys and the farmers, in Oklahoma Territory threatens to break the lovers apart.

Add to that a secondary relationship of Will Parker and the flighty and feisty Ado Annie and a rip-roaring musical comedy is born. Especially when the silver-tongued peddler Ali Hakim comes to town. The dark character of Judd and his death adds another interesting dimension to the musical as well.

Lyric Arts Main Street Stage presents
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s
directed by Dann Peterson
Feb. 17 – March 18, Tickets $14-$25
420 East Main St., Anoka
For more info, visit www.lyricarts.org
or call 763-

“The characters are varied and clearly identifiable without being stereotypical,” Peterson said in a statement. “The music is terrific and the songs help to tell the story and don’t get in the way of the narration. This show is rich with social thought as well as terrific music.”

Peterson last directed “Arsenic and Old Lace” at the theater in spring 2011.

“Oklahoma!” features such well-know tunes as “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Many a New Day” and “Surrey With a Fringe on Top.” And let us not forget the musical’s title song “Oklahoma.”

The play opened on Broadway in 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances.

As for locals, Matt McNabb, who plays Ali Hakim, and Kate Behean, who plays Ado Annie opposite McNabb, are from Anoka. McNabb is a well-known director in the area and directs theater at Anoka High School. Father and son Brad Vanasse and Ryan Vanasse of Coon Rapids return to perform together after an eight year hiatus. And the Blomquist family, Ethan and his daughters Merry and Ceili, are acting together again in another Lyric Arts show.

An opening night gala for “Oklahoma!” will be held Feb. 17. The theater will host a Teen Scene event Feb. 25 before the 7:30 p.m. A Page and Stage event and Talk Back with Peterson and cast will be held Feb. 26 for those interested in learning behind the scene details.

For more information, visit www.lyricarts.org or call 763-422-1838.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]

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