After 75 years, you’re lookin’ good, “Oklahoma!”


Emilia Brown, Susann Fletcher, Brian Martin. Vanessa Mitchell. Jon Cooper in “Oklahoma!” Photo:  Gary Ng

OGUNQUIT, Maine – The show must go on and it did. And it seems an overwhelming majority of theater-goers were glad it did.

When Stephen Mark Lukas, who plays the lead male role of Curly in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” became ill on June 21, there was no understudy ready to go on.

It’s not unusual during limited runs, when theaters may choose not to employ a full-time understudy, even while realizing what that could mean.

The theater decided that Jon Cooper, who usually is a member of the ensemble and plays Cord Elam, would play the role of Curly with script in hand.

If the rest of the show wasn’t so rock solid, it could have been extremely awkward at the least and disastrous at the worst; instead it was a tribute to the professionalism of the cast, and especially to director Fred Hanson and others who responded to the crisis.

Cooper undoubtedly earned the undying gratitude of the theater and castmates, as well as theater-goers who had made plans well in advance and were traveling long distances to see the show.

It is unfair and against theater protocol to review Cooper’s performance given he was basically in rehearsal mode throughout. But he did show strong vocal and dancing skills, and had some fun when the script called for a long, lingering kiss with the female lead, Laurey (Taylor Quick). He threw the script on the ground.. After the kiss was over, he retrieved the script and momentarily lost his place, delighting the audience.

He no doubt spent several hours before the show going over his dance sequence with Laurey in Agnes DeMille’s iconic “Dream Ballet” sequence in Act I.

After the show, the cast and the audience both paid tribute to Cooper, while Lukas returned to the role of Curly Friday night for the run, which concludes July 7.

Taylor Quick’s voice is quite a wonderful instrument, and she nails the transformation from tomboy to coquette as Laurey, who detests Curly right up to the moment she doesn’t, and their courtship is an extended pas de deux, not without many complications.

She brings beautiful life to any of the Rodgers & Hammerstein standards she’s part of, but most noticeably “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

The character of the Persian peddler Ali Hakim is a bit of a cartoonish stereotype, but Martin Scola mines it for every last bit of humor and finds a delightful comic foil in Chessa Metz as Ado Annie Carnes, always in trouble because of an inability to say “no” to either Ali or cowboy Will Parker, with Colby Dezelick showing off equal parts of skill as a singer, dancer, and purveyor of rope tricks.

Timothy John Smith has done some excellent work on Boston area stages and between his truly menacing presence and the isolation and pain he gives to a searing rendition of “Lonely Room,” the part of Jud Fry is in good hands.

Aunt Eller (Susan Fletcher) is the loving buffer between the warring cowboys and farmers and a warm, loving, wise protecter of Laurie.

The designs and choreography are based on the Cameron Macintosh London and Broadway revival that made a star out of Hugh Jackman

The dancers, performing Susan Stroman’s work, recreated with additional choreography by Ginger Thatcher, leap out at you from the Ogunquit stage and literally stopped the show in its tracks at the top of Act II with a rousing rendition of “The Framer and the Cowman.”

The famed “Dream Ballet” by Agnes DeMille in Act I was also beautifully realized, with the beauty, grace and athleticism of the dancers and en pointe lighting by Richard Latta.

Music Director Jeffrey Campos coaxes a full, rich re-telling of the iconic score from a six-piece orchestra.

“Oklahoma!” may be 75 years old, but in its current revival it is as fresh and vibrant as ever, with a score that will be sung, performed and celebrated 75 years from now.

Rodgers & Hammerstein said it best about the great theatrical lady’s milestone: “You’re lookin’ good, ‘Oklahoma!’”

The Ogunquit Playhouse production of “Oklahoma!” Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. Based on the book “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. Original dance by Agnes DeMille. Directed by Fred Hanson, Original choreography by Susan Stroman. Original choreography restaged and additional choreography by Ginger Thatcher. Scenic adaption and additional design by Michael Allen. Costume coordination by Jill Tarr. Lighting design by Richard Latta. Sound design by Kevin Heard. Music direction by Jeffrey Campos. Through July 7.

The ensemble in a scene from “Oklahoma!” Photo: Gary Ng