Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Oklahoma" As You Have Never Seen It Done by Students--Fantastic!


As You Have Never Seen It Done by Students--Fantastic!

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Seeing Roger’s and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” at the Playhouse performed by the Conservatory Theatre Company was everything I never thought it would be.   I had sent reviewers to see other plays but had never attended myself.  Not only was it a rare treat but as other fans left the theatre they consistently told me what a bargain it is.

From college students to baby boomers we have heard the songs from “Oklahoma” but some of us never connected them with the play.  My companion, my young nephew Josh, an engineering student at WVU and he had never really heard of the movie or the play but found out right away what a treat it was.  For the Roving Pittsburgher Report I always like to take someone who will give a fresh perspective on the event.    From the time Curly Mc Lain (Stanley Graham) hits the stage to roust you with his theatre filling “Ho What a Beautiful Mornin’ “you know there will be no boredom and definitely no napping.  

Then as the reluctant romance begins between Curly and Laurey (a Kirsten Lynn Hoover) with Aunt Eller (Amanda Lee Hawkins) nodding her approval the audience is clip clippiting along in their seats to: “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top. “ Here all three give you a preview of their comedic ability in song and dialogue.  Hawkins’ portrayal of Aunt Eller gets her raving reviews as a feisty older character actress and it is amazing that such a big, clear enchanting voice comes from Hoover as Laurey.

Center Laurey and Curley Left Ado Annie

 About Will Parker’s (Matt Augustyniak) and the Male Ensemble’s performance of “Kansas City,”  young and old would have to say, “How do we bottle that energy and talent?”   And if you doubt that good things do come from Minnesota you just need to take a gander at his love interest Ado Annie (Jorie Ann Kosel).  If you are close enough to see her very expressive face you will have no doubt that both her voice and comedic ability will take her far beyond college musical theatre.

And I always feel badly when the bad guy in the play does a good job but he doesn’t get recognized with applause at the end of the play.  In “Oklahoma” that does not happen with the die-hard bad guy or the “rascal” in this production.  Luke Haferty as Jud Fry is the consummate bad guy with an amazing voice who makes the villain human and almost likeable in “Pore Jud is Daid” and “Lonely Room.”  His character portrayal makes our early American Western actors look like kindergarten kids.  Also Ryan Gregory Thurman must justifiably get rave reviews as the wandering peddler, Ali Hakim.  He adds a unique ethnic flavor to the diversity that was the old west and he’s just too darn funny in his portrayal.

There is so much to give kudos to in this all student cast.  One cannot attend without noticing the orchestra and the female ensemble and ballet dancers and the Dust Bowl Wranglers.  It’s hard to believe with the sheer talent on stage in “Oklahoma” that the cast are all students. 

The backdrop for “Oklahoma” however is not done by students and the scenery which was both authentic looking and innovative deserves professional accolades and the costume design also as it was authentic down to the pantaloons and the shoes.
Director Patrick Cassidy is to be given the ultimate praise for bringing out the best in every character, singer and dancer on the stage.  A side note, Cassidy’s mother, actress Shirley Jones is a native of our area born in Charleroi, Pa.

Oklahoma finished its run at the Playhouse on October 27 but please remember what a bargain the Conservatory Theatre is with seats ranging from $18.00 to $20.00.  Watch for the classic Greek Tragedy, “Hecuba” which begins November 2 and finishes on the 24th at the Playhouse.  If it is only 75% of what “Oklahoma” was it will be worth the trip and the price of the ticket.  Additional information at:

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