Review: ‘Oklahoma!’ at 70? You’re doin’ fine

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A bright golden haze of timeless musical theater invention suffuses “Oklahoma!” at the Carpenter Center. It carries Musical Theatre West’s affable, fleet-footed 70th anniversary revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s indestructible 1943 classic past some minor oddities in casting and tone.

Debuting director Davis Gaines assembles a color-blind, triple-threat troupe and a fine design team that deftly blends Andrew Ward’s stylized sets from Trevor Nunn’s 1999 London rethink with Jessica Olson’s costumes, Julie Ferrin’s sound and Jean-Yves Tessier’s lighting.

Musical director Dennis Castellano elicits Broadway-worthy sounds all around, while choreographer Lee Martino ups her own ante, with a spine-tingling dream ballet, spearheaded by airborne dancers Katya Preiser and Steve Ewing, rivaling Agnes de Mille’s iconic original.


What ultimately sells this trip to 1907 Indian Territory is the core romantic triangle, which plays like gangbusters. Bryant Martin’s cocksure Curly, Madison Claire Parks’ headstrong Laurey and Christopher Newell’s smoldering Jud are ideal in person, voice and chemistry.

Saundra McClain’s unconventional Aunt Eller is nonetheless apt, and hilarious in “The Farmer and the Cowman.” Although Teya Patt’s prairie nymphomaniac Ado Annie reads more Melissa McCarthy-esque clown than the impish soubrette the authors intended, she, Luke Hawkin’s loose-limbed Will Parker and Amin El Gamal’s deadpan Ali Hakim convulse the house.

Purists might bemoan the truncated overture and certain missing moments -- no cold stove for Curly to sit on mid-proposal? -- and the post-“Glee” attack of the choristers sometimes feels anachronistic.

But as someone raised on the Kansas/Oklahoma border with the show ingrained in his brainpan, this reviewer can safely state that when the full-throated ensemble sends the title number soaring over the orchestra pit, audiences may find it hard to avoid joining in. Yeeow!


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“Oklahoma!,” Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 3. $30-$85. (562) 856-1999 or Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.