Highly Recommended***** Chicago is more than a theater town, it is a special theater town, one in which our Opera company, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, takes on a Broadway Musical from the past and revives it with the power and energy, as well as the superior voices of a strong Opera company. This year, the revival is of “Oklahoma”, Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical based on the novel, “Green Grows The Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. The original production opened in New York, at the Saint James Theatre 70 years ago ( March 31, 1943) and this musical has been done over the years at every local music theater, college and high school as well as the community theaters throughout the Unites States ( and probably elsewhere). It is a story about Americana an dthe territory known as Oklahoma, a mixture of farmers and ranchers who were each fighting for their very existence. Under the skillful eye of director Gary Griffin ( a favorite here in Chicago) using the original choreography of Agnes De Mille,(Choreography handled by Gemze DeLappe) this is a sparkling production from start to finish. It is a long production, with no cuts at all, so act one is an hour and forty five minutes and the total running time with intermission, three hours, BUT, it is a glorious three hours of magic on the stage at the Lyric.
Songs like “Oh,What A Beautiful Morning”, “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top”, ” People Will Say Were In Love”, “I Caint Say No”, “Everything’s Up To Date In Kansas City”. “Out Of My Dreams” and of course , the title song “Oklahoma” as well as a host of others. They just don’t create shows today with as many memorable songs in their “song boook” as the classics. And , what a cast, Broadway stars John Cudia makes for a powerful Curly, the cowboy who falls in love with the Farmer’s daughter ( so to speak) and The incredible Ashley Brown as the target of his affections, Laurey. But it is not all New York talent as our own Pauls Scrofano ( a Chicago favorite) is by far one of the best Aunt Eller’s I have ever seen , on any stage ( and I gather I have seen at least 12 productions of this musical), Usman Ally is hysterical as Persian con-man traveling salesman Ali Hakim, and a host of others in the ensemble and playing smaller roles. In the roles of Will Parker ( a cowboy, also in love with a framer’s daughter, Ado Annie, a happy go luck girl ( who “Can’t Say No” are Curtis Holbrook and the adorable Tari Kelly and the villain of the story, Jud Fry is played with great style by David Adam Moore ( who also does his own part in the “Dream Sequence Ballet” that is purely sensational and spellbinding. The dream also features Stephen Hanna and Helena McClintlock as Curly and Laurie. Bravo!
In fact, this is an almost flawless production enjoyed by a full house of happy audience members. The Opera House sound system is not designed for dialogue, as it is an Opera House, so there are times that the sound goes a bit tinny. I suggest that if they are going to continue to do large scale Musicals, as they have in recent years, that perhaps they invest in some body mikes and learn how to adjust them for the theater. That being said, this is the only negative and to be honest, not very big at that. It is always a pleasure to watch many of our local actors ( from Marriott,Drury Lane,Theatre at The Center and others, get on the stage of the Lyric Opera, as I know that for them this is a dream come true. The aspirations of an actor are to be in a hit, and while it is for the most part a Broadway hit they are dreaming about, being in a production of this magnitude on the stage at The Lyric, may be the halfway to the stars dream in their hearts, and possibly the greatest memory they will have in their careers>
For those of you who do not know the story, it is about a territory that wants to become a state, where the cattle ranchers and the farmers are at each others throats. But, people being people, love enters many lives and the cowboys and farmers do fall in love, despite the warnings from their kinfolk. In this story, we watch as the growth of a community takes place and they learn to accept each other so that they can become a state and prosper. It is fun filled with great characters and a solid cast of players, from the ensemble up. I was able to watch one of the understudies , who was in the audience opening night, and while I know that it would be his preference to be on the stage, I could see in his eyes the excitement he felt for the actor in the role. This shows that just being a part of this sterling production is a prayer answered for an actor and a wonderful experience. This production is also a wonderful theatrical experience for the audience- from teen- ager to octogenarian-, this is one that should be on your MUST see list.
Wednesday the 8th and the 15th at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Thursday the 9th at 8 p.m./Thursday the 16th at 7:30 p.m.
Friday the 10th and the 17th at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday the 13th and the 18th at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday the 12th and 19th at 2 p.m.
Perhaps one of the greatest Mother’s day Gifts of all times!
Tickets start from $32 and can be purchased at the theater box office, by phone at 312-332-2244 or online at www.lyricopera.org
The Civic Opera House is located at 20 N. Wacker Drive ( between Madison and Washington) and while there are limited dining spots in the area, there ar etwo in the Opera House, The Pederson Room ( a delightful experience, call 312-827-5700 for reservations) and the Florian Opera Bistro ( casual , but “chic”) NO RESERVATIONS- Check website for more info.
Parking is valet and there are many lots in the area. We went to Greektown ( Pegasus is still a great meal and value) and hopped a cab leaving our car with their valet service. worked pretty well and we have a wonderful meal.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Oklahoma”