The Fantastic Denver Production of Oklahoma

Lily Ives, Rookie Reporter

As the lights dimmed and the overture started, the excitement of seeing a new piece of theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts was shared amongst the entire audience.

A screen, printed with a newspaper setting the time period of the show was lifted, revealing the set, complete with a cabin and bench.

Oklahoma is a classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show that had its first production in 1943. It tells the tale of two rival men both in love with a farm girl, Laurey, in the Oklahoma territory in 1906, featuring a background love story between a cowboy, Will Parker, and another farmer girl, Ado Annie.

The production in Denver featured an all African-American cast, contrasting with the previously predominantly white casting of other productions. This was done to be more historically accurate. The musical was led by Antoine L. Smith as Curly and Ta’nika Gibson as Laurey, with direction by Chris Coleman and choreography by Dominique Kelley. The set design was done by Wilson Chin.

The show features a wood plank-like design on the floor of the stage with a screen on the back of the stage, allowing for a rural sky to be visible. This, along with the costuming, transported me to early 20th century, Oklahoma.

The choreography was the show stealer, and it allowed for the story to be told without words, specifically the ballet in the dream sequence in the number “Out of my Dreams,” which told the tale of Laurey’s potentially dark and dangerous future. The tap dancing during the number “Kansas City” was fun and lighthearted, allowing the character of Will Parker, portrayed by Rennie Anthony Magee, to shine.

Will Parker stole the show, only being matched by his love interest Ado Annie Carnes, played by Bre Jackson. When they had scenes together, the chemistry between the two was electric, and the way they matched each other’s playful energy without losing any of the drama was truly something special.

The character of Aunt Eller, portrayed by Sheryl McCallum, was a strong and commanding figure, who drew the eye to her whenever she was on stage.

I would definitely recommend going to see this show while it is still running. It is a fun and enjoyable story, told in a new, fresh way that is sure to please any theatre goer.  The production runs from Sep. 7 to Oct. 14 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.