Book and lyrics by: Oscar Hammerstein II
Produced by: Broadway By The Bay
Directed by: Joshua Marx
Choreographed by: Camille Edralin ??
Music direction by: Sean Kana
Featuring: Ali Lane, Sam Faustine, Jennifer Mitchell, Andrew Mondello, Danila Burshteyn, John Melis, Erin Yvette, Mohamed Ismail, Samantha Pistoresi, Rich Matli, Ray D'Ambrosio
Ensemble: Libby Lloyd, Samantha Hildebrandt, Jessica Golden, Lauren Herman, Elena Ron, Lauren D'Ambrosio, Amy Meyes, Josiah Frampton, Joseph Hudelson, Kyle Arrouzet, Chris Aceves, Isaac Godberg, Andrew Rotchadi
When: 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays and Saturday, June 11 Dates: June 3-19, 2016
Where: Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway St., Redwood City, California
Tickets: $47-$69; Call 650-579-5565, or visit www.broadwaybythebay.org.
delivered for 'Oklahoma!'
singers and dancers for classic musical
After the last bow for "Oklahoma!" at Broadway By The Bay on Friday night, while I was still completely ecstatic after the thrilling magnificence of the title song, an actor friend whispered in my ear, "It wasn't that great."
I had to think about that for hours before I finally figured it out. The difference between my actor friend and me is that I am all about the music. And the dancing. My actor friend is all about the acting. And the stagecraft.
So, I am here to tell you that Conductor Sean Kana and his orchestra of 15 pieces, and the 24 members of the all-singing, all-dancing cast, did just great with Richard Rodgers' fabulous music, and the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.
If you have never experienced a full cast roaring through the magnificent melodies and counter-melodies of that title song, well, now is your chance to have its beauty sweep over you like a mighty ocean wave. I'm talkin' chills and thrills.
It is one of the great theatrical experiences. And it was powerfully, beautifully performed by this cast in Redwood City.
Sadly, my actor friend makes a point about some of the acting. There are only a few outstanding performances. On the other hand, to expect true theatrical charisma in 24 roles is just not realistic. Director Joshua Marx did, overall, a fine job getting this huge cast to do the right things.
Among the best of the actors, John Melis is scary powerful as Jud Fry, totally focused on his role; he got maybe the strongest hand of applause at curtain call, and he plays a creepy sociopath.
Danila Burshteyn is wonderful as the champion roper, Will Parker he brings energy and stage charisma to his absolutely charming performance as the not-too-bright but sincere cowboy. He looks so young! But he brings a mature connection with audience.
And Erin Yvette is delightful as Ado Annie Carnes, the girl who "Cain't Say No," because she is funny and sexy and charming. She really milks that song, and is hilarious in Act Two when she and Burshteyn share the duet for "All 'Er Nothin'."
She was full of energy for the role maybe too much, as she ran down the aisle from the audience to the steep stage steps, missed a step and face-planted the top step. But she bounced up and was great on stage. (Yes, maybe it was a stunt. I don't know, but doubt it.)
Mohamed Ismail was very funny as the traveling peddler, Ali Hakim, another performer who received more than the obligatory big hand at curtain.
The rest of the cast as actors ranged from very good to tolerable, although it's likely that opening night jitters were at fault. Too many of them were caught in that trap of watching themselves perform. A few just didn't seem to believe in the characters they were portraying.
But, all of them delivered as singers and dancers.
Handsome Sam Faustine had the more-or-less lead role of Curly, and gave us a lovely, pretty tenor voice on his songs. Jennifer Mitchell, who is quite beautiful, gave us an outstanding soprano that occasionally wandered out of musical comedy land into opera land, but it all worked.
Ali Lane was solid as Aunt Eller, laying down the cornpone just as called for in the role. She opens the show by walking down the aisle and addressing the audience, soon joined by some cowhands and farmers. Sans music, they talk about this and that, including the need for people to turn off their electronic devices and note the location of the exits.
It went on about three times as long as it should have.
The point of this show is the music, and it was a long time till that began, and Faustine came walking down an aisle, singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'."
The show is filled with great music the tunes already mentioned, plus "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "People Will Say We're in Love" and more. Not to mention the "Out of My Dreams" ballet that closes Act One, which was a fabulous performance on opening night. Wonderful dancing, choreographed by Camile Edralin. It's a weird story, if you can take your mind off the wonderful music long enough to think about it. But historical note here this was the first musical that really used the songs to advance the plot. So it all counts.
Curly and Laurey are both proud but insecure, and don't know how to just come out and say they like each other. So, Curly fails at asking her to the social, and she decides to accept farmhand Jud's invitation instead, despite her doubts about him.
Her doubts are well founded, as we learn. He needs a good bath, for one thing, and he has a gun and some pictures of scantily clad women. Oooh!
Curly pays a visit to Jud's hovel and sings "Pore Jud," which basically invites Jud to kill himself. There's a weird moment in musical history for you.
Then Jud, left alone again, full of hate for the Curlys of this world, sings "Lonely Room," in very grim lighting. I don't know if that was a choice of lighting designer Andrea Schwartz, or director Marx, or just another example of the inadequate lighting system at the Fox. The man at least needed a follow spot on him.
Plenty of drama and comedy about romantic triangles in Act Two.
During the intermission, an elderly man in the audience who said he wasn't sure if he would last long enough to see what Broadway By The Bay delivers in its next season, turned to me and said he really liked the chorus dancers, "Because they look like real people, not Barbie Dolls."
He was right. The dancing was first-rate, and it was performed by a wide range of body shapes.
The on-stage design elements, by Kelly James Tighe, worked well enough Aunt Eller's home, Jud's hovel, the scary cornfield, all did what they needed to do. A huge cloth backdrop behind them, showing what most people in Oklahoma would have guessed was an incoming storm, was less effective. And, it had a hole in it, which reminded of some of the tawdry old sets that used to be seen at Broadway By The Bay's shows in San Mateo.
Still, these are cavils. Minor complaints. The music is magnificent, the dancing delightful, and there are plenty of laughs, in a show where the cornball is stacked as high as an elephant's eye.
A good show. Go see it. Let that wave of "Oklahoma!" in the second act wash over you, leaving you as ecstatic as it did me.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org