Oh, What A Beautiful Production
This is an Okalahoma! not to be missed.
reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Okalahoma!, now playing at the Trinity Rep in Providence, RI is an outstanding production of one of the greatest musicals of all time. It is staged in an intimate atmosphere that along with the stage, includes three platforms that are placed among the audience, and where much of the cast spends time during the performance. It works beautifully.
From the moment Curly, played by the very talented Charlie Thurston, steps onto the stage to sing Oh, What A Beautiful Morning, you know this is going to be a joy to watch.
Mr. Thurston has a perfect voice for the role and the acting ability to go with it. He is joined by Rachel Warren as Laurey, and they are wonderful together; you would think the roles were created for just them. They sparkle and hearing them sing is delightful.
There is a dark side to Okalahoma! that is seen in the character of Judd Fry played by Trinity regular Joe Wilson, Jr. Mr. Wilson uses his excellent acting abilities to bring a humanity to a very dark figure in the play. I have not seen many productions of the play, but I do know that Joe was able to evoke sympathy from the audience for Judd, whom many will remember mostly as the evil creature portrayed by Rod Steiger in the movie version. With his subtle and pained expressions he brought a depth to a character that deserves to be better understood, and, in this version, is.
This is not, of course, a full scale Broadway production, but in many ways it is better. It does have an orchestra consisting of six musicians who are as good as any you will hear. They are on the mark throughout the play, and you couldn’t ask for more.
The entire cast is nearly flawless. Janice Duclos as Aunt Eller conveys a strength of character and kindness. Stephen Thorne in the role of Ali Hakim keeps us smiling as the traveling salesman who is trying to avoid a shotgun wedding. Jude Sandy as Will Parker makes the audience feel like shouting to him as the character seems determined to keep making the wrong decisions. Jude is always just one step away from losing everything.
Finally, included in this great cast is Rebecca Gibel as Ado Annie.
Ms Gibel has talent, real talent.She is funny, sings beautifully, and can act. The way she conveys Annie’s pent up sexuality by using body tremors along with her facial expressions and absolutely entrancing eyes is just breathtaking. Oh, and she is funny, very funny. In a cast that is abundant with talent, Rebecca Gibel showed that she has what it takes to go far. I look forward to seeing her as she continues on what should be a marvelous career.
This is an Okalahoma! not to be missed. It is warm and intimate. It is full of life’s good and bad. Be good to yourself and travel the short distance to Providence to see this play. You will not be disappointed.
Directed and Choreographed by Richard and Sharon Jenkins
Playing through June 5th
Box Office: 401-351-4242 www.trinityrep.com