'Small parts' steal Lawton Community Theatre's 'Oklahoma!'
Lawton Community Theatre opened its 66th season with a production of the classic musical "Oklahoma!" The production not only kicked off a new season for the longest-running community theater in Oklahoma, but it was also in celebration of the state's 115th anniversary.
"Oklahoma!" was the first musical written by the dynamic duo of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and premiered in 1943. Set in 1906 in Oklahoma Territory, the musical centers on the complicated relationship between cowboy Curly McLain (Dan Tibbs) and farm girl Laurey Williams (Ashley Graham).
And a complicated relationship it was between Tibbs and Graham, who had the teasing and fighting scenes between the two characters down, but their romantic moments were anything but palpable. "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and "People Will Say We're in Love" are possibly two of the most memorable songs from the musical, besides the state song, but the lack of chemistry between Tibbs and Graham made them forgettable.
The musical itself moves as slowly as if you're traveling along the Chisholm Trail through Oklahoma on horseback, but what makes it ebb and flow are the characters, their quick wit and the dazzling dance scenes. But Lawton Community Theatre's production of "Oklahoma!" didn't get a good pace until well into the Act I with "Poor Jud Is Dead." Although Curly begins the song singing about Jud Fry's (Eric Malloy) funeral, it was when Malloy began singing that the musical was resurrected. Malloy's Jud was a mirror of Rod Steiger's portrayal of the character in the 1955 film, but Malloy's singing outranked Steiger's. In addition, Malloy's and Tibb's harmonizing were complementary, making a song with an awkward subject matter quite enjoyable.
The saying "there's no small parts" is true, especially in Lawton Community Theatre's production of "Oklahoma!," like with Malloy's Jud, but especially with Stephanie Sabol's Gertie Cummings. Her loud but infectious laugh, wide smile and bouncy attitude stole every scene she was in, and same goes for her singing. A small part that needs to be mentioned is Curtis Myers' portrayal of the Persian peddler Ali Hakim. His performance was an excellent comic relief from most of the production. Aunt Eller is also a small but significant part in "Oklahoma!," and for Catherine Wright to come in at the last minute to play the character and have most of the character's quick retorts memorized was quite impressive.