“Oklahoma!” is the first musical written by the team of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II.
The musical, based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs,” is set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906. It tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.
Maggie’s Little Theater will be presenting the show for two weekends beginning Saturday, July 18.
Alan Perknis, one of the group’s founding members, talks about why the show was selected.
“We consider ourselves to still be a fairly new group, so it’s important to build an audience,” Perkins said. “We’ve found that doing classic, large-scale musicals can be a big draw for us. We always want our shows to be family-accessible and have many opportunities for performers.”
Other factors that led to the decision include factoring in the costs of sets and costumes, which can eat up a lot of the group’s budget, Perkins said.
“‘Oklahoma!’ was always on our short list of shows and we knew it would be a matter of time before it rose to the top of the list,” he said.
Nic Anthony Calabro is directing the show as well as taking on the role of Curly.
“It’s not our policy to have the director playing a lead role,” Perkins said. “This is a volunteer organization and things happen. More than halfway through the rehearsal process the actor playing Curly had to drop out. We didn’t have enough time to recast and start over from scratch, so we had to move Nic into the role.”
Calabro is also adding some new moves to Agnes DeMille’s legendary original choreography for the show.
“Many of the musical number rely on movement vs. dance,” said Perkins. “Whereas the director adds movement, character and intent, the choreographer creates the actual dance numbers. In truth, a show like this only has a small handful of dance numbers where the rest of the songs are scene or character driven.”
While pulling double duty as director and lead actor, Calabro jumped at the chance to be involved with the show.
“I’ve always loved how subtly ‘Oklahoma!’ demonstrates fear and ignorance as the unfortunate effects of self-preservation,” Calabro said. “All of the characterizations are very genuine and their expression via song and dance deceive most audiences who anticipate a simple, pleasant musical. The cast is incredibly talented so that’s enabled a smoother transition, but learning the role of Curly is similar to learning Hamlet—except Hamlet doesn’t dance a 12-minute ballet before intermission. I’m looking forward to hear what our production impresses on the audience.”
Playing opposite Calabro is Emily Mathis, who moved to New York from Denton, Texas last fall, so she knows exactly what kind of girl Laurey is.
“She is a tough, but naive, farmgirl in turn-of-the-century Oklahoma territory. She is in love with Curly— even if she won’t admit it — and is fiercely independent,” Mathis said. “She’s the only girl around who can give Curly a run for his money.”
If you go
When: July 18 -July 26
Where: Maggie’s Little Theater, Parish Hall of St. Margaret’s Church, 66-05 79th Place, Middle Village
Cost: $18/adults, $15/seniors, $12/children 11 and under
Contact: (917) 579-5389