To paraphrase Aunt
Eller's hoedown philosophizing in the box
social scene, I don't say
Bucks County Playhouse's "Oklahoma!" is no
better than any other
"Oklahoma!" but I'll be danged ef if ain't
Since I belong to the generation that
didn't have to have D-Day
explained to them last week, I respond to
"Oklahoma!" very much the way
the patrons of the bar in the old joke
responded to shouted numbers.
I've known all the words to "Oh, What a
Beautiful Mornin'," "Surrey
With a Fringe on Top," "I Cain't Say No,"
"Pore Judd Is Daid" and
especially "People Will Say We're in Love"
for 50 years.
So what I hear at a performance of
"Oklahoma!" isn't necessarily what's
coming from the stage in real world time.
The singers, especially
Jennifer Welch's Laurey and Jonathan
Stewart's Curly, sounded
particularly good -- strong and clear and
comfortable with each other.
But it might just be remembrance of
If I have a criticism it's that director
Guil Fisher has his cast's
Winsome Regulator ratcheted up a few
notches too high. The story is
pure, cornfed love and virtue, where the
sounds of the earth are like
music and the wavin' wheat can shore smell
sweet. When the players keep
their faces painfully stretched into
expressions that proclaim, "You're
going to like this!" -- what Damyon Runyon
called a "castor oil smile"
-- it causes suspicion that someone thinks
cornfed love and virtue
aren't entertaining enough.
Welch is pretty and Stewart is tall and
lanky. Sharon Price's Ado Annie
and Phil Simmons' Will Parker are
competent cartoon caricatures of the
pliant farmer's daughter and the
hell-fer-leather cowpoke. D.C. Mann's
Ali Hakim, the amorous peddler, stands out
by underplaying. He's a
gentle con man bemused by universal
Fisher himself is excellent as the
villainous farmhand, Jud Fry, and
very much against the odds since Jud is
considerably younger than
Fisher. Fisher plays him not as the usual
sullen rebel but genuinely
crazy, quirky, a loner on the edge of
changing into a different
species. And Fisher's voice is unmatched.
Madelon Gignac as Laurey's feisty Aunt
Eller and Sean Burger as Ado
Annie's shotgun-toting father give solid
The best production touches are the
inclusion of Ali Hakim's rarely
performed song, "It's a Scandal! It's an
Outrage!," and the dream
ballet that ends the first act, all too
often lamely. Bucks County's
ballet, choreographed by Ann Nieman, isn't
flawless but it isn't campy,
either. It's serious and capable and
involves a dozen dancers besides
principals Shea Curry and Jason Raize.
Mark Barnhart's sets are simple but
inventive, lath skeletons for
"buildings" and a painted cross-stitch
effect for clouds, trees and
grass. James B. Weiss is music director.
Dawn M. Hamblin and Charlotte
Price designed the costumes. Eric Barnes
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"Oklahoma!" continues through June 26 at
Bucks County Playhouse, New
Hope. Information: 862-20041.