As bad as my geography is, I never would have learned much of anything were it not for musicals.
"Gary, Indiana, Gaaree, Indeeanna, Garee, Indiana" ... was the song that Winthrop learned to overcome his lisp with in "The Music Man," and that which I evoked, incorrectly, to name the Indiana capital.
I got "Oklahoma" right thanks to the handsome cowboy Curly and his winsome farm-girl love target, Laurey.
"Oklahoma" is unforgettable in many more ways, of course. It was the first collaboration of two giants of American musical theater, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. And although its story of the high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys was originally panned by critics as being too avant-garde, in its run since 1943 it has won two Pulitzer prizes and 35 Tony awards.
And now, under the direction of Patsy Wygle and Keith Moore, in their first production since taking on their positions as the upper school theater directors for the Community School, "Oklahoma" sweeps onto the stage here for performances on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The actress and her actor husband are seen more frequently in and around nexStage's home company, Laughing Stock, and its productions, doing Shakespeare in the park, the annual "Cabaret" or coaching budding artists through camps like Little Laugh and Little Stages.
"We've always wanted to direct a production of 'Oklahoma,'" Wygle said.
"We feel that no student should escape high school without at least one classic Rodgers and Hammerstein under their belts, and this is our favorite," Keith Moore added.
Even if the characters aren't familiar, the songs surely will be. This is the musical that produced "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love" and "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top." Musical direction of the Community School Upper School Players is Brad Hershey.
And you don't have to be a fan of "Footloose" to know that cowboys like to dance, but to show these kids how it's really done, Hilarie Neely from Footlight Dance Centre was recruited.
The principal cast features Camille Bourret (Aunt Eller), Cassidy Carson (Curly McClain) Morgan Jones (Laurey Williams), Hunter Weaver (Jud Fry), Shayna Moellenberg (Ado Annie), Emmet Fortuin (Will Parker), Maddie Caraluzzi (Andrew Carnes) and Jamie Wygle (Ali Hakim).
The company is Jolie Blair, Josie Bunce, Tara Burchmore, Isabelle Caraluzzi, Emi Carr, Chloe Chrysikopoulos, Alyssa Corrao-Bal, Reta Flynt, Chloe Francois, Alex Harten, Isabel Kirk, Ethan Kjesbo, Ella Marks, Arielle Rawlings, Hannah Robideaux, Sam Rogers, Reed Roudabush, Lauren Sunday, Nick Wright and Kingzer Zou.
Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students, and are available in advance at Chapter One Bookstore or at the door. All seating is general admission.
Jennifer Liebrum: email@example.com
Get in the spirit:
"Oklahoma" starts Thursday, Oct. 27, with a Dress Like an Okie Night and continues through Saturday, Oct. 29. Tickets available at Chapter One bookstore in Ketchum, or at the door at the Community School auditorium.