Authentic Community Theatre brings 'Oklahoma' to Hagerstown
Nearly 76 years after the original Broadway production opened in New York City, Rogers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” will be staged closer to home this weekend.
Authentic Community Theatre brings the classic musical to the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, and Saturday, Jan. 19, at The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., in downtown Hagerstown.
Set in a Western Indian territory just after the turn of the last century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colorful background against which cowman Curly and farm girl Laurey play out their love story.
Dustin Perrott of Hagerstown plays dim-witted yet good-hearted Will Parker in the show. He said the staying power of “Oklahoma!” is in its simplicity.
“It’s a classic. There are a lot of great new shows coming out. There are a lot of shows maybe centered around current social issues, or shows that have an agenda, and they do a really good job of bringing certain aspects to light. But this show isn’t anything like that. This show is just a night out, like two hours of fun, just dancing, singing, good time. It’s kind of an escape from all that, more or less,” he said.
Kristen Davis of Hagerstown, who plays heroine Laurey Williams, agreed.
“Everyone can find something in the music and in the story that they can relate to. And I think that’s why it’s lasted for so long and in 2019 it’s still relevant,” she said.
For Benjamin Smith, who plays Curly, the show has a deeper meaning.
“It’s still a fun musical because all the classic (songs) of ‘Oklahoma!’ and ‘The Surrey with The Fringe on Top,’ ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning,’ people listen to that and they just wanna bop a little and they wanna smile,” said Smith, of Waynesboro, Pa. “But you could also go a little deeper on how it has staying power to the character Jud. Because Jud is sort of an outcast and he doesn’t fit in. But he wants to fit in. And he wants to be with Laurey. But instead of going about it a certain way, he goes about it all the wrong ways .... It ends not too well for him.” Smith said the disconnect between Jud and the other characters brings continuing relevance to the musical.
Appearing for the first time with ACT is Evan Mackenzie of Hagerstown, who plays traveling salesman Ali Hackim.
“It is one of those shows that people just remember if there have any semblance of theater, they always remember how to spell ‘Oklahoma!,’ because of the show, but at the same time it’s fun, it’s uplifting, it’s enjoyable for everybody,” he said.
Mackenzie, who has appeared in the area in productions with Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children’s Theater, Hagerstown Community College and Shepherd University as well as in Frederick, Md., and New York City, is impressed with the quality of the show.
“It’s fantastic, a lot of great talent in the cast,” he said.
“We have a great cast, a great production team. We have been working for so long to make this amazing and I think people will really enjoy it,” she said.
Beyond that, the show will appeal to fans of “Oklahoma!,” as well as newbies to the production.
“People should come to see ACT’s production of ‘Oklahoma!’ because it’s going to be a version of the show that they’ve never seen before. We’re taking different spins on it to make it more interesting for the people who have seen it over and over again. And yet there are gonna be pieces in it that people who have seen it several times love,” Davis said.
Perrott echoed Davis’ sentiments.
“’Oklahoma!’ is a classic. It’s been done a million different ways by a million different people and I think what we’re gonna do is pay homage to the original, but it’s definitely going to give people something fresh to take with (them) as well,” he said.
Top photo: Rehearsing for Authentic Community Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!” are Samantha Williams, front; Benjamin Smith, Dustin Perrott, Mae Weisenmiller and Tim Vinson. (Photo by Amy Dulebohn)