Are you ready to take “Oklahoma!” seriously?

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“Territory folks should stick together, territory folks should all be pals.”

NEW was the buzzword at the Ent Center last weekend: a new home for Theatreworks; a new cast, with several actors making their company debut; and a dramatic new vision for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical “Oklahoma!”

Traditionally, the story focuses on the playful antagonism between cowboy Curly and farmer’s daughter Laurey. Meanwhile, rodeo champ Will Parker seeks the hand of town flirt Ado Annie.

But for director Kyle Hatley, the most important character is a lecherous loner brute named Jud.

Dylan Mosley pulls a tragic brokenness out of Jud Fry. Without changing a word of the script, the farmhand goes from villain to victim, outcast by this stupid town and hungry—no, desperate—for “real things.” Mosley’s burning eyes and soulful baritone make a compelling contrast to the “aww, shucks” charm of our heroes.

© Isaiah Downing

That said, “aww, shucks” charm goes a long way with FAC regulars Zach Guzman and Kevin Pierce as Curly and Will. Guzman’s crooning literally lights up the stage for “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,” while Pierce’s dancing steals the show, hoofing with shameless flair.

Rachel Fey brings a fractured adorability to Ado Annie. Rather than brushing off the character’s can’t-say-no problem with a wink, Fey seems genuinely distressed by it.

Hatley’s choices will provoke fans of the classic, forcing them to reconcile with the show’s casual disdain. Newcomers may find themselves trapped between the original’s delights and the insights of Hatley’s critique, uncertain which side to root for.

Thankfully, this production uses immersive staging, with characters running in and out of the audience. So if you haven’t bought tickets yet, you’re in luck—Theatreworks brings the boot-stompin’ fun all the way to the balcony.

Additional Notes:

Hossein Forouzandeh breathes vitality into the throwaway role of Ali Hakim. Often used as semi-racist comic relief, the character suddenly has an internal dignity, while still delivering solid jokes.

The seven-piece orchestra fills the space nicely, blending with the cast and preserving Rodgers’ rich score.

“Oklahoma!” contains violence, a bit more than kissing and a drug-induced dream ballet.

Theatreworks at The Ent Center for the Arts
5225 N Nevada Ave
Box Office: (719) 255-3232

Playing February 15 – March 11, 2018 (buy tickets)
Admission: $50-$62 general; $35 Wednesday
Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

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