ORU Theatre to debut "Oklahoma"

The Oracle

ORU's theater, music and dance departments are coming together to produce Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical "Oklahoma."

The show is set to debut March 1-4 during College Weekend. With successful auditions and casting out of the way, the directors, cast and crew are eagerly working hard to produce ORU Theatre's next big production.

The show will be directed by Communication, Arts and Media Department Chair Laura Holland, and the music will be directed by music professor Richard Sutliff. Choreography will be created by adjunct professor of dance Heather Fick.

Holland is no stranger to directing "Oklahoma." She's directed the show six times at Discoveryland, a large amphitheater near Sand Springs where "Oklahoma" is performed several days a week in the summer. In choosing the musical, Holland says, "We were looking for a show that would highlight our talented singers, dancers and theater departments."

"I'm really excited about doing it again," Holland said, "I'm looking at a different style. I'm trying to make it less theatrical and more realistic with the characters."

When it was time to hold auditions, Holland was really looking for "triple-threats" -- people who can sing, dance and act. Students had to each bring an 8-by-10-inch photograph of themselves and come ready and dressed to dance, sing and perform a monologue. Students were taught a quick dance routine by Fick and performed it in groups of four. Students had to sing a memorized piece from another Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with an accompanied pianist. Then they performed a light monologue. After that were callbacks.

In addition to regular casting, there was a dance audition Jan. 17, which was to select dancers for the infamous "dream ballet" in the show.

Dancers auditioning for the dream ballet were taught a combination of steps in groups of four and had 20 minutes to memorize it before they performed it. The same piece will also be performed at ORU's dance department spring concert.

Fick is excited she has the opportunity to choreograph "Oklahoma."

"I want to bring a lot of characterization to choreography, and I want to add a contemporary aspect," Fick said.

Fick said she has not watched the film adaption of the musical because she didn't want to accidently make some of the same choices the choreographer did.

"I hope to create my own interpretation of the score through dance," Fick said. "There is so much movement in 'Oklahoma,' and the movement is so critical to the show that I get to carry a lot of the weight for making the show happen. Most musicals don't give the choreographer that opportunity."

"Oklahoma" is known for being a musical that tells the plot with dance," Fick said, "It's exciting to use our dancers for that."

For those unfamiliar with "Oklahoma," it is a love story set in the 1900s before Oklahoma became a state. It's a light-hearted comedy but also has some serious undertones.

Jared Jirele, a senior communications major, was cast as the lead male role Curly.

"I have yet to do a major production at ORU," Jirele said. "I'm really excited to work with Laura Holland."

This isn't Jirele's first time in "Oklahoma." He performed it at Discoveryland in 2009 and 2011.

"I was familiar with the show so when I auditioned, I found a song that was like one in the show."

Jirele believes there is a lot of history in the musical.

"There's no better place for 'Oklahoma' than in Oklahoma," he said "If you're an Oklahoma resident or not, you learn about the rich heritage of Oklahoma."

Cast List:

Aunt Eller: Kelsey Carroll

Curly: Jared Jirele

Laurey: Becca Hyvonen

Ike Skidmore: Stan Jones

Fred: Jared Burkett

Slim: Zach Sherwood

Will Parker: Will Acker

Jud Fry: Travis Cox

Ado Annie Carnes: Shannon Garcia

Ali Hakim: Nate Stahlke

Gertie Cummings: Barbara Filomeno

Andrew Carnes: Andrew Eiler

Cord Elam: Rueben Wakefield

Chalmers: DeVante' Malone

Joe: Caleb Reynolds

For more information on the theatre arts major, go to http://www.oru.edu/academics/college_of_arts_and_cultural_studies/theatre_arts_major.php