REVIEW:  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston kicks up its heels with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic ‘Oklahoma!’

From the first few divine notes of the show’s opening number, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning captured vividly by Jared Troilo’s charismatic Curly, Troilo creates one morning not to be missed.  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s Oklahoma! combines top notch choreography, a jubilant cast, and an interactive set that invites the audience to settle into its own home on the range. 

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Aunt Eller Carolyn Saxon and Ensemble Photo credit Robert Pascucci

With luminous direction and exceptional choreography by Rachel Bertone, Reagle Music Theatre kicks off their summer musical season with the stomping fun of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic, Oklahoma! continuing live and in person through July 2 at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets. 

With its wealth of historical references weaved into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic soundtrack capturing the spirit of the time, it is no wonder that Oklahoma! won the Pulitzer Prize for musical composition in 1944 and is still thriving after 80 years. 

Musically directed and conducted by Dan Rodriguez, Reagle Music Theatre delivers the production’s joyous zest for life, the thrill of camaraderie, timeless messages as well as dark, tense and suspenseful moments.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their second musical, Carousel shortly after Oklahoma’s success and both shows share some of the same themes.  Reagle Music Theatre delicately weaves its joyous moments with themes of loneliness, temptation, and obsession effectively especially through its powerful chorography and soundtrack, balancing this timeless tale.

Based on Lynn Riggs play, Green Grow the Lilacs, a colorful and rustic set rewinds the clock to the Oklahoma Indian Territory just after the turn of the century, equipped with softly flickering lanterns, vintage photographs, wooden fences, prairie landscapes, a wooden and winding fence, and interactive props hanging from the walls.  Franklin Meissner Jr.’s evolving lighting gradually becomes its own character, effectively transforming the mood from a soft rising sun to a nightmarish hue.

Emerald City Theatrical wonderfully captures the authenticity of the time with cheerful costumes from plaids to pinstripes as well as richly colored bandanas, suede stirrups, leather vests, cowboy boots, and pastel puffed sleeved dresses with stylish Victorian boots.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Curly (Jared Troilo) and Laurey (Kayla Shimzu) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Ruggedly dressed in suede chaps with a button down shirt, leather vest, and cowboy boots, Jared Troilo’s Curly McLain has an imaginative streak and an innate zest for life albeit infused with an occasional bit of overconfidence.  Whether engaging Kayla Shimizu as Laurey in a whimsical carriage ride during the imaginative The Surrey with the Fringe on Top or musing about life in Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Troilo puts his heart into Curly delivering an inspired performance.  Troilo also has a sweet rapport with Carolyn Saxon who brings wise sensibility and playfulness to Aunt Eller through her considerable grin, yet she is a woman not to be trifled with.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’s’ Aunt Eller and Curly Photo credit Robert Pascucci

In a fishtail braid and striped overalls, Shimizu depicts headstrong and practical Laurey with sass, strong vocals, and introspective charm.  The production more clearly examines nonconformist Laurey who wants to do anything but what is traditionally expected, yet still yearns for a big love.  Through refined, twirling and ballet-infused choreography that combines the traditional with the contemporary topped with lace lined parasols, Many a New Day illustrates that contrast as Laurey longs for her own path. 

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Laurey and Girls (Out of My Dreams) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Jack Mullen has many standout moments showing off rodeo and dance skills as fun loving, somewhat hotheaded, and spontaneous Will.  Will’s rendition of Kansas City has never been more fun with lively vocals and slick choreography as The Territory Boys stomp, tap, and perform various stunts. 

Oklahoma’s Ado Annie (Rebekah Rae Robles)and Will Parker (Jack Mullen) Photo credit Robert Pascucci

A vision in pink, Rebekah Rae Robles depicts excitable Ado Annie with a feigned wild-eyed innocence and childish mischievousness.  With a glimmer in her eye, Robles’s chemistry with both Will and Johnny Gordon as bewildered peddler Ali Hakim has its own distinct charm. Wearing a green suite, Gordon as Ali Hakim cleverly balances this dynamic character with comedy and slyness.  Rick Sherburne also makes a lasting impression as Andrew Carnes, Ado’s intimidating and overprotective father, especially during the number, The Farmer and the Cowman.

Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ Dream Laurey and Jud Daniel Forest Sullivan. and Girls Photo credit Robert Pascucci

Daniel Forest Sullivan brings a deeper sadness to skilled hired hand and loner Jud residing in a one room smokehouse.  Sullivan masters this role in its quieter moments, amplifying each scene’s tension and making his character that much more mysterious.  His scenes with Curly are somber and powerful even through Jud’s twisted judgment. With an unmistakable laugh, Caitlin Zerra Rose as Gertie Cummings is a great deal of frivolous fun.

However, the biggest reason to see Oklahoma! is Bertone’s stellar choreography from the powerful and symbolic ballet Out of My Dreams to the snappy excitement of its title track.  The show exemplifies the closeness and camaraderie of simpler times.  It captures the joy of being in one another’s company which has become more precious in the last couple of years.  The entire cast captures the distinct spirit of Oklahoma! in all its sweeping joy. 

Reagle Music Theatre kicks off the summer musical season with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical classic, Oklahoma! continuing live and in person through July 2 at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets. 

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