May 17, 2017
Brilliantly ending their spectacular 10th season, Long Island’s John W. Engeman Theater offers a great incarnation of the iconic, game-changing musical Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!. Excellently directed by Engeman vet Igor Goldin, this production runs through June 25th at the gorgeous Northport venue. The cast is truly outstanding and the whole production is well done.
Based on Lynn Riggs‘ 1931 play Green Grow The Lilacs, this story, set at the turn of the 20th century, follows Laurey as she grapples with her feelings for Curly and Jud. Marking the first time the two legendary composers worked together, the score for this show includes several very familiar pop culture hits including “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'” and the iconic title number. To add, an audience favorite is the illustrious ballet scene closing Act I.
Kaitlyn Davidson splendidly portrays Laurey, a sassy, independent farmgirl working on her Aunt Eller’s ranch. Ms. Davidson makes a great Laurey with a fiery disposition and head strong demeanor. Speaking of Aunt Eller, Jane Blass is terrific in the role of the respected community leader. Her one liners bring many laughs. Bryant Martin portrays Curly, a cowboy who is in love with Laurey. Ms. Davidson and Mr. Martin make a great team especially when they adorably tease each other when we first meet them. Jud, a worker on Aunt Eller’s farm, is portrayed by Nathaniel Hackmann in a return engagement to the Engeman. Jud is very mysterious… a loaner; and he is exceedingly enamored by Laurey. Mr. Hackmann’s intense and chilling take on Jud is superb. Also a highlight is Danny Gardner as Persian peddler Ali Hakim who brings many laughs throughout the show. And Brianne Kennedy is also stellar as the sweet, but ditzy (and easy), Ado Annie.
On Mr. Goldin’s creative team, DT Willis‘ set is ideal. The Engeman’s is already a good size stage to begin with, but Mr. Willis’ set makes it look larger. This is enhanced beautifully by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert‘s sound design is top-notch. Additionally, most of Matthew Solomon‘s [costumes] are stunning, but, personally, I wasn’t over the moon with some of the designs on the dresses. Style-wise they were pretty – I love a full skirt – but the designs seem rather unadorned. But other than that little quibble, the whole production is visually exquisite.
And so, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is indeed another hit for the John W. Engeman Theater and a wonderful end to their season. Is this show produced frequently? Perhaps. But this fantastic cast and clever creative team certainly make this showing a must see for the season.