Entertainment » Theatre

Oklahoma!

by Michelle  Sandoval
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 6, 2018
Laurey (Sara Owinyo) surrounded by her friends (L to R) Brenda White, Audrey Fischer, Jessica Smith, Nicole Spadaro, Shiela Lampechkun, Chandra Bond, Tianna Cohen, and Ashley Maimes. Photo credit: Mike Marsalis.
Laurey (Sara Owinyo) surrounded by her friends (L to R) Brenda White, Audrey Fischer, Jessica Smith, Nicole Spadaro, Shiela Lampechkun, Chandra Bond, Tianna Cohen, and Ashley Maimes. Photo credit: Mike Marsalis.  

Summer is heating up, and so are the shows that are filling the theaters all around Southern California. A good way to escape the heat is to check out a local production, which will not only cool you off but transport you to an entirely different location altogether. And now, The Actor's Repertory Theatre of Simi offers the perfect getaway with their offering of Rodgers and Hammerstein's favorite "Oklahoma!" Playing now through September 2, let the talented cast and crew of this lovely theatre transport you back to the early 1900s to the Oklahoma Territory where things become heated by more than the blazing sun.

"Oklahoma!" is the first musical presented to us by the talented duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It debuted on Broadway in 1943 and has since delighted audiences for decades, both on stage and in film. Now, director Will Shupe, musical director Matt Park, and choreographer Becky Castells bring it to life once more at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

The story centers around farm girl Laurey (Sara Owinyo), stuck in a love triangle between two suitors - the charming cowboy Curley (Joe Hebel) and the villainous farmhand Jud (David White). The town is hosting a dance in the evening, and Laurey is faced with tough choices that lead to dangerous circumstances. Offering some comic relief to the sinister evening is a secondary romance between simple Will Parker (Conner Stevens) and his flirty fiancée, Ado Annie (Alissa Horner).

The leads of the show, Owinyo, and Hebel, truly shine. They shared a passionate chemistry that electrified the theatre. As much as they dominated as a couple, the two also owned the stage during their solo performances. Owinyo has a voice that captivated the audience with every single note, proving that her talent is meant for much bigger stages. Hebel, while only a sophomore at Pepperdine University, presented us with a powerful performance well beyond his years. These two lit up the stage with every number, reminding us all how exciting new love can be.

Lovebirds of a different variety are Will and Ado Annie, who offer us a fun and teasing look at the world of romance. Stevens and Horner are also great on stage. Their flirty relationship is charming and hilarious. Horner sparkles as Ado Annie, both when she is being seduced by the peddler (played wonderfully by Ceron James), and when she is wooed by her true love Will. That being said, she wasn't the only one batting their eyelashes at the enthralling Stevens, who was quite the fetching fellow.

Another standout performance was given by White, as the dangerous farmhand Jud, also after Laurey's love. He gave us a portrayal of a jilted man with nasty thoughts and even nastier intentions. Fun fact - White's first stage performance was eight years ago in another production of "Oklahoma!," where he played leading man Curley. He was happy to switch roles and play Jud, who he claims is the "most misunderstood man in the territory."

And I have to mention the lovely Kathleen Silverman, who played the witty leader of this rowdy pack, Aunt Eller. She was delightful to watch, both in times of uproar when her strong will shone through, to times of joy when her happiness shimmered on stage. She brought the right amount of zest to the character, giving us an Aunt Eller that radiated with energy.

The music and songs of "Oklahoma!" have always been some of my favorites, first being introduced to them in grade school during a square dance competition (yes, our school had square dance competitions!). Look for "Kansas City" and "I Cain't Say No!" in the first act, and of course "Oklahoma!" in the second, for tunes that will have you humming along all the way home.

This show is fun for the entire family, and to be presented in such a charming local theatre is a treat in and of itself. So, jump in your surrey and head on over to spend some time with the folks in the territory.

"Oklahoma!" is playing through Sept. 2 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, located at 3050 Los Angeles Ave., in Simi Valley. For tickets or information visit www.simi-arts.org or call 805-583-7900.

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