Oklahoma comes alive on Haven Theater stage

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 11, 2007

Since 1943 Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical “Oklahoma” has beenenjoyed by millions on the Broadway stage as well as communitytheaters across America. Tonight Brookhaven Little Theatre will endits 2006-2007 season with an interpretation of this timelessfavorite.

Jana Fulda Russell, as director, has compiled an impressiveensemble of cast members. Russell does not take credit for hercasting ability, but claims that each member was a gift from Godsent especially for this production. She took these gifts andutilized her own gift to blend choreographer, Holly Moore; musicdirector, Clay Whittington; set designers, John Landress and GregRussell; and scenic designer, Deunte Ford; into a winningcombination. Each brings professional leadership and unique styleto his or her designated role.

The play begins with Curly (Adam Brady) singing “Oh What aBeautiful Morning” and all you can think is “Oh, what a beautifulvoice.” Brady continues to impress us with his singing abilitythroughout the play. His romantic lead, Laurey (Geralyn BaldwinRussell), matches him vocally and dramatically. Their chemistryonstage is believable, whether playing love scenes or engaged inflirtatious banter. During the Dream Sequence, Ayla Smith portraysLaurey in a graceful ballet that brings an added bonus to thisproduction.

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BLT veteran Sarah Underwood is feisty and lovable as Aunt Eller.Underwood’s experience and talent brings solidity and continuity tothe production.

It is the comic subplot involving Ado Annie, Will Parker and AliHakim, portrayed by Sherri Mathis, Paul Henning and Hunter Shirleythat allows this trio to steal scenes. Mathis and Henning aredelightful as star-crossed lovers. Henning captures his characterwith great humor and flair, and Mathis is hysterical with her manyfacial expressions and vocal intonations. Shirley brings animationand style to his portrayal of Hakim.

The character of Jud Fry has been considered one of the most hatedcharacters to portray. Kevin Trantham had to put away hisconsiderable charm to find the heart of Jud. Even in his darkestmoments Trantham was able to capture this character and allow theaudience to see his vulnerability.

To round out the cast, Gertie Cummings, (Deanna Ezell), Vivian(Cathy Kimble), Virginia (Sally Doty), Aggie (Laura Groth), Kate(Traci Barnett), and Ellen (Celeste Lowery), as well as CelineCraig, Sarah Linger, Marley Myers, Jordan Nettles and PhoenixMcKissack add beauty and energy to the show. Their harmonies aresuperb.

Additional male characters include Andrew Carnes (Maurice Gaskin),Cord Elam (Steve See), Ike (Ben Russell), Tom (Christopher Young),Fred (Zachary Morace), Slim (Daniel Davis), Joe (Scott Mullins),and townsman Stone Underwood. These gentlemen are convincing ascowboys and farmers who occasionally break into enthusiastic songand dance.

Warning: The staged fight between Jud and Curly is realistic andcaptivating. Shirts off to Brady and Trantham!

The crew consists of Greg Russell as producer and sound engineer;newcomers Katie Morace and Thomas Williams on lights; HeatherThurgood as assistant director and stage manager; Betty Ruth Gaskinas assistant to the director; and multi-talented makeup artistDustin King.

The play opens tonight at 7:30 and will be presented again Saturdayevening. A Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. with the doors opening at1:30 p.m. for ticket sales. The play will also be presented againnext weekend, May 18-20. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased atthe door.