Pine-Richland to present 'Oklahoma!'
When choosing a musical for the Pine-Richland High School students to perform, director Sarah McGraw said it's important to first know the strengths of the cast based off auditions.
This year, the cast lent itself perfectly to taking on the classic Rogers and Hammerstein production, “Oklahoma!”
“It's got everything a musical should have,” she said. “It's equal parts dancing, singing, drama, comedy. It really is the whole package.”
“Oklahoma!” was the first musical written by the famed duo and is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs.” Opening with the song, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,” it tells the story of Laurey Williams, who is caught in a romantic entanglement with cowboy Curly McLain and a dangerous farmhand named Jud Fry, both of whom are in love with the farm girl.
Senior Morgan Engle plays Aunt Eller, the matriarch and conscience of the show. She said it's a much different role from any she's played in the past.
“She's very strong-willed and also comedic at points, and she's a mother figure,” Engle said. “It's a very new experience and it's been a great challenge. I've been able to develop as an actress and push myself. It's been a fun experience to step into her shoes.”
For senior Gabe Schoone, who plays Curly, one of the most challenging aspects of the role was learning ballet. The dancing in the show is quite involved, and Act I ends with an extended dream ballet sequence of which Curly is a big part.
“At first I was nervous,” he said. “I'm not the best dancer in the first place. I'm coordinated, but ballet is a little different. I just went into it with the mentality that I want this to be amazing. Helen (Krushinski, who plays Laurey) is an amazing partner and a wonderful dancer, so it was very easy to get some help from her, but to be honest I was just super excited to try something new.”
Krushinski, who will study theater at University of Michigan next year, said the show has really come together recently. The cast began rehearsing at the beginning of January.
“We had a rehearsal (Feb. 27) and did this one scene that's supposed to be really emotional and it got to the point where it's supposed to be finally,” she said. “When little things like that finally happen it's exciting because you know if you can do that in a theater with the lights on and no one in the audience and no costumes you can do it 100 times better in costumes with an audience and lights and props.”
More than 125 students are involved in the production including the cast, crew and orchestra, McGraw said. She believes that audiences will be surprised by what a complete package the production really is, especially if they're unfamiliar with shows such as “Brigadoon” or “West Side Story” and other classics.
“One minute you're laughing and by the end of the next scene you could be crying,” she said. “That's what we're going for, of course.”
Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.