Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Aug 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

More Than OK

ae okyNearly flawless, Cabrillo Stage’s ‘Oklahoma!’ is musical theater at its finest

Oklahoma!” first opened on Broadway in March of 1943. From its first raised curtain, it was a bona fide hit and managed to run for more than 2,000 performances. Few were surprised—and even fewer minded—that it went on to be revived numerous times thereafter, enjoying national tours and foreign productions. The 1955 film version helped fuel its success, too—it created a real star out of then up-and-coming Shirley Jones. But somewhere as the show evolved, the musical love story set against the easy-breezy plains in 1906—the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (“Carousel,” “The King and I,” “The Sound of Music”)—managed to illuminate what it meant to be an American and, perhaps, what it is that makes us human.

Those two things are rarely found—or questioned—in the vast majority of the modern-day entertainment spectrum. That is what makes Cabrillo Stage’s choice of bringing “Oklahoma!” to life this year—70 years after it first opened—all the more inviting. Better still, the production is dedicated to the lives affected by the tornadoes that ravaged parts the state of Oklahoma in spring of this year. Even better, one of its stars, Matt Taylor, hails from Oklahoma.

A winning trifecta? You bet.

Under the direction of Kikau Alvaro, with music direction by Alice Hughes, Rodgers’ music and Hammerstein’s book and lyrics are in wonderful hands here. And the company’s take on the story—boy likes girl, girl plays hard to get, boy and girl get lassoed into some drama—has remarkable nuances that stay with you long after you leave the theater.

For starters, Matt Taylor loses himself in the role of cowboy Curly. Strapping, masculine and confident, Taylor’s infectious charm and easy-on-the-eye looks may be enough to lure audiences in, but his pitch-perfect acting technique and deep, deft, powerful vocals, alongside what seems to be a natural ability to handle both serious and comedic scenes, bring a refreshing zest to the stage. He lends a sense of passion and purpose to the role, allowing Curly to morph into a fully evolved being, and not simply just a creative cloak that an actor wears on stage for several hours.

ae oky2Emily Marsilia (left) and Matt Taylor shine in “Oklahoma!”One word: Presence. He’s got it—in spades.

You sense it upon his first entry on stage. In front of the farmhouse of his soon-to-be star-crossed love, Laurey, Taylor’s keen ability to ride the emotions of “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” is musical theater at its finest. That dynamism is present in other numbers—“The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Pore Jud Is Daid,” and, most especially, in “People Will Say We’re in Love,” performed with haunting affection with Emily Marsilia.

About that creature … Marsilia goes beyond what the original script calls for, which is to infuse Laurey with generous splashes of winsome farm girl and unfettered gal. Dramatically, she’s right on the mark, but vocally, she’s a true star—oh, the notes she hits, holds and ties up in a bow for us. But there’s a believability to the vulnerable pluck she delivers here, too, and it’s a testament to both Marsilia as an actress and Alvaro as director. While Taylor’s Curly grabs you from the get-go, Marsilia’s Laurey manages to effectively heed by the script—and Alvaro’s direction it seems—and allow the character to simmer a bit, slowly giving the audience time to build an allegiance to her and her plight—my, oh my, how will she ever fend off the advances of that ominous farm hand Jud (Kevin Johnson)? In the hands of lesser skilled—or over zealous actors and directors—it would have missed the mark entirely.

This is most evident in the first act’s dramatic end piece, Laurey’s surreal dream sequence, which involves the entire company. Here Marsilia proves herself to be a bona fide triple threat, cascading with grace through a tough-to-tackle yet wonderfully executed ballet sequence. (Alvaro also serves as choreographer.)

But no two roles can hold up an entire production—not really. The magic of “Oklahoma!” lies in its resilient casting. And Alvaro and co. have done a remarkable job rallying together a robust crew, Alice Hughes as Laurey’s Aunt Eller, among them. As one of many creative tentpoles in place here, Hughes evokes both a sense of heart and spunk and we’re all the better for it.

And then there’s Jordan Sidfield and Vanessa Vazquez. Wild cards they, their Will Parker and Ado Annie are a hoot. Sure, their characters’ romantic entanglement are intended to braise the musical’s belly with comedy, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two other actors whose comedic timing, vocals, dancing and sheer stage presence manage to elevate an already memorable production to even greater heights. Sidfield is spirited—nice rope, boy!—and Vazquez is just born for this role. (And yes, to say she nails flirtatious Annie’s charmer “I Can’t Say No!” is an understatement.)

Scene stealer, in all the best ways, is Andrew Ceglio as peddler Ali Hakim, although this should not surprise local audiences. Anybody who has witnessed Ceglio in previous Cabrillo Stage productions—“Anything Goes,” “Cabaret,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”—already knows what this creative beast is capable of. As Hakim, he’s a breath of fresh air.

And so, too, is the entire production.

Very few flaws plagued the opening night performance. Some minor technical matters concerning microphones, something that weighed down the earlier performances of Cabrillo’s “La Cage Aux Folles,” did little to mar the overall effect here. And while, at times, a few scene transitions—and a few scenes for that matter—could have benefited from having more briskness, no doubt these few quirks have already been refined.

Not many people may actually know that “Oklahoma!” is based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. The author, playright and poet hailed from Oklahoma and is said to have written the original play in a café in Paris, finishing it up in the south of France some months afterward. Once the play was adapted into a musical and won hearts in 1943, Riggs was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

The production has traveled many a creative prairie since that time. In 1944, Rodgers and Hammerstein won a Pulitzer Prize for their artfully crafted imaginative musical. In 1956, the film version nabbed several Oscars, including Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (in 1955). It’s been revived on Broadway four times and, to this day, remains a classic.

This is what makes Cabrillo Stage’s version all the more impressive. From its staging to its production value, it appears that the creative team investigated and gave real thought to how to bring a robust, choreographically intense and musically mesmerizing show to life—and also do it justice. (And what a showstopper they make out of the “Oklahoma!” number.) In the fine hands of director Alvaro and the artistic wand of producing artistic director Jon Nordgren—his musical team transcends—“Oklahoma!” is one of the best shows to emerge out of the creative portals of Cabrillo Stage in some time. 


“Oklahoma” plays through Aug. 18 at Cabrillo Stage. For tickets, or to learn more about all the shows running this summer at Cabrillo Stage, visit cabrillostage.com. Photos: Jana Marcus

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Marlyn Marsilia, July 31, 2013
I have seen the show every night since preview and I must say this production of "Oklahoma" is mesmerizing, flawless and definitely Broadway standards from beginning to end.
Congratulations to the directors and full cast for bringing Broadway to Santa Cruz.
If you haven't seen this rendition of "Oklahoma" get your tickets, it can only get better, you don't want to miss this.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Trending Now

Whether you live by the Vogue bible or choose to go into your day wearing what you slept in, odds are you wear clothes.

 

The Thought Form of Solution

It’s our last week of Leo before the sun enters Virgo (next Friday/Saturday). The planets this week make complex patterns and relationships (vibrational cadences and rhythms) with the outer planets, mainly Neptune—the planet that veils, obscures, protects and finally refines us. Neptune offers us entrance into a deeply spiritual sense of comfort and solace. Neptune is the personality ruler of Pisces (saviors of the world) and soul ruler of Cancer (world mother). “The fish goddesses who leapt from earth (Virgo) to water (Pisces) unitedly give birth to the Fish God (Christ, the Soul) who introduces the waters of life  (Neptune & Aquarius) into the ocean of substance (matter, mother bringing light to the world. Thus does Neptune work.” (Esoteric Astrology).

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Cultures Collide

No surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

 

Foodie File: Kauboi

Japanese-Western themed unites sushi with whiskey and beefgrill

 

How should Santa Cruz develop downtown around the San Lorenzo River?

Santa Cruz | Artist/Show Promoter

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Have Mercy!

Looking for a frisky summer wine at a reasonable price? Look no further than Mercy Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Richly textured “with an exotic flavor profile,” the wine reveals aromas of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, with anise appearing as a star attraction. Smidgeons of pineapple and honeycomb add a touch of sexiness to this well-balanced, easy-drinking wine, which pairs well with a variety of cuisine —especially ceviche, calamari and other not-too-heavy foods.