Emily Thompson and Kris HylandOne hundred years ago the Oklahoma Territory became a state. Sixty-four years ago, this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic gave us what many consider to be the first modern musical, and its title song would give the state of Oklahoma their official state song. Last week, Fort Lauderdale Children’s Theatre opened their production of Oklahoma! with a show recognized by the State of Oklahoma as part of their 2007 Centennial Celebration.

The summer shows at FLCT incorporate many non-youth actors from the community, but the lead roles are mostly high school and young college students. And the two nineteen-year-old leads in this one are especially good – Kris Hyland from Emerson College as the cowboy Curly (whose mother Teri Hyland plays Aunt Eller) and Emily Thompson from Florida State as farmer’s daughter Laurey. Both have a combination of good vocals and great personality. Kris Hyland is a likeably cocky Curly who is amusingly cautious and understandably nervous when taunting the big farmhand Jud in Pore Jud is Daid. Emily Thompson is a very funny and more authentic than usual Laurey with a bit of a temper you don’t want to cross (and Curly crosses it a-plenty). Her fine voice shines in Many a New Day surrounded by a good female ensemble. Together Curly and Laurey have charming chemistry that we see from the beginning when Curly is playfully ruffling the fringes of his coat arms in her face in Surry With the Fringe on Top, and especially in their entertaining duet People Will Say We’re in Love.

Strong performances also come from another romance in the show – Laurey’s friend Ado Annie and the peddler man claiming to be from Persia, Ali Hakim. Eighteen-year-old Amanda Maxwell is a hoot as the girl who Cain’t Say No to a guy who talks purty to her. FLCT’s production manager Scott Sherven is a hit throughout as the low-down, dirty skunk peddler man who wants Ado Annie, but doesn’t want to marry Ado Annie. Jason Posner completes the love triangle as the clueless Will Parker who is eager to marry Ado Annie, but keeps bungling away his opportunities. All the frivolity takes a breather during Jud’s solo, with David Wright turning in a dark, sad, and creepy glimpse into the mind of a stalker in Lonely Room.

Director Sean Cutler’s show is a slightly pared down version of Oklahoma!, skipping Ali Hakim’s It’s a Scandal and the big dance/dream scene Out of My Dreams, but the show still clops along at a fun and easygoing pace rather than having a rushed feel to it. The ensemble, ranging in age from 7 to seniors, throw in plenty of skill and enthusiasm as they kick up their heels in the big dance numbers Kansas City and The Farmer and the Cowman choreographed by Charles Reynolds, while earning their biggest response from the audience when they raise the roof with the official state song of Oklahoma.

Performed July 20-29, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Curly: Kris Hyland
Laurey: Emily Thompson
Aunt Eller: Teri Hyland
Will: Jason Posner
Ado Annie: Amanda Maxwell
Jud: David Wright
Ali Hakim: Scott Sherven
Carnes: Charles Reynolds
Cord Elam: Will Murphy
Skidmore: Jason Gibson
Gertie: Rachal Solomon
Slim: Kevin Hart
Ike: Vasan Venkataraman
Malcolm Flavell
Christian Montelione
Josh Venkataraman
Scott Venkataraman
Valerie Bailey
Linda Brown
Janet Erlick
Melissa Santana
Katie Stone
Megan Strobel
Dana Robinson
Bianca Bingham
Hannah Ellowitz
Valieria Hansen
Sunny Smith
Brian Oldak
Sean Oldak
Jack Santoro
Mikey Simon

Director: Sean Cutler
Musical Director: Kenneth M. Green
Choreographer: Charles Reynolds
Set Design and Construction: Tyler Smith
Costume Design: Karen Kang Hancock
Lighting Design: Sean Cutler
Stage Manager: Stacy Corbett


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