The Hartt School is pleased to present the beloved and groundbreaking Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! Thursday, March 3, through Saturday, March 5, at 7:30 PM, and on Sunday, March 6, at 3:00 PM, in Millard Auditorium, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford. Admission is $20, with discounts for seniors, students, educators, University of Hartford alumni, and groups. Admission is free for all University of Hartford students, faculty, and staff with a valid University ID. For tickets and information, visit www.hartford.edu/hartt or call the University of Hartford Box Office at 1.800.274.8587 or 860.768.4228.
The original Broadway production of Oklahoma! opened March 31, 1943, and closed May 29, 1948, running for 2,248 performances and breaking all Broadway box office records (for run length and receipts) at the time. The show won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944. The first musical collaboration of legendary composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, the most successful songwriting team in musical theatre history, Oklahoma! was the first musical production to integrate a robust storyline, and featured a cast of relative unknowns. Previously, musicals primarily consisted of songs and comedy without a plot and often were created to showcase the superstars of the day. Based on the Lynn Riggs play Green Grow the Lilacs, with original choreography by Agnes de Mille, and set during the early 20th century in the territory that eventually would become the state, Oklahoma! changed the face of stage musicals, integrating comedy and drama, as well as music and dance, to advance its plot and provide further insight into the show's characters.
Oklahoma! has Connecticut ties, as well. Originally titled Away We Go!, the show opened at New Haven's Shubert Theater in March, 1943. Only a few other changes and song substitutions were made before the production opened on Broadway. These updates proved significant, introducing the show-stopping title number "Oklahoma!" and the beautiful (and somewhat humorous) love song "People Will Say We're in Love." Other favorites include "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "I Cain't Say No," and "Kansas City." In 1955, Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae starred in the popular film version.
Hartt music theatre majors Andrew McMath, a sophomore from Simsbury, CT, and Danielle Westhead, a junior from Mt. Laurel, NJ, star as romantic leads Curley and Laurey in The Hartt School's production, and lead a large cast of music theatre majors. Oklahoma! is directed by Theatre Division Director Alan Rust, with music direction by Director of Music for Hartt's Theatre Division Mike Morris, and choreography by Director of Dance for the Theatre Division Ralph Perkins.
McMath, who just recently had an emergency appendectomy but now is back at rehearsals, previously played Will in the Simsbury Summer Theatre production. Thrilled to step into Curley's formidable cowboy boots, McMath said of the show, "It is one of the greatest pieces of literature in musical theatre history." When he found out a few weeks ago he needed emergency surgery, the first thing he thought of was to call the Production Stage Manager to let her know about his situation. Dedicated to his craft, Andrew was concerned the surgery would affect his ability to perform this giant role only a month later, and immediately asked his physicians about how long his recuperation might take and what his physical limitations might be. Initially he was restricted from practicing the physically demanding fight scenes and some choreography, but his perseverance is paying off as the production nears and he is able to do more each week. He expects to have no limitations come performance time.
Mike Millan, a senior from Bay Shore, NY, and Zoe Kassay, a senior from Franklin, MA, play the comedic leads Will Parker and Ado Annie. Completing the humorous "love triangle" is Persian peddler Ali Hakim, portrayed by Charles South, a junior from Pembroke Pines, FL. Senior Alex Levin of Larkspur, CO, is the ominous Jud Frey, and grounding the show as Aunt Eller is junior Keisha Gilles of Waltham, MA.
The cast also includes junior Donny Gersonde of Coronado, GA, as Andrew Carnes; junior Katie Sarno of Wells, ME, as Gertie Cummings; senior JP Qualters as Dream Curly/ensemble; sophomore Caitlyn Wilayto of Pepperell, MA, as Dream Laurey/ensemble; senior Mark Gagliardi of Lynnfield, MA, as Cord Elam; junior Scott Caron of Shrewsbury, MA, as Ike Skidmore; sophomore Will Macke of Simsbury, CT, as Slim; sophomore Lars Lee of Minneapolis, MN, as Mike; junior Jayce Johnson of Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, as Joe; junior David Raposo of Dartmouth, MA, as Sam; senior Adam Sarette of Manchester, NH, as Junior; sophomore Dakota Dutcher of Carson City, NV as Jess; and sophomore Mike Baskowski of Holliston, MA, as Chalmers; senior Lindsey Adkins of Wilbraham, MA, as Ellen; junior Laura Helm of Southborough, MA, as Kate; junior Kristen Tarczynski of Vernon, NH, as Sylvie; junior Lauren Hill of Portsmouth, NH, as Armina; senior Christiana Rodi of Cranston, RI, as Aggie.
Other members of the ensemble include Alexandra Bartley, Zach Bencal, Eileen Conneely, Alexandra Cutler, Kelsey Flynn, Steven Gant, Sarah Kozlowski, Michael O'Brien, John Olsen, Courtney Rada, Hannah Spacone, Meredith Swanson, Emily White, Kristina Wilson, and Jenna Zito.
Pictured: Andrew McMath of Simsbury, CT, Danielle Westhead of Mt. Laurel, NJ, star as romantic leads Curley and Laurey, and Keisha Gilles of Waltham, MA, as Aunt Eller in The Hartt School's production of Oklahoma!