AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on Lynn Riggs' Green Grow the Lilacs
Directed by Joshua Marx
Presented by Broadway By the Bay
Fox Theatre
2215 Broadway St., Redwood City / (650) 579-5565

Reviewed by Judy Richter

There are good reasons why "Oklahoma!" has remained a perennial favorite for more than seven decades.

Chief among them is the memorable music by Richard Rodgers with lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II. Broadway By the Bay showcases this music as one of the strongest aspects of its production. The singing is superb by all of the principals as well as the ensemble.

Another strong aspect is Camille Edralin's choreography, inspired by Agnes de Mille's choreography for the original 1943 Broadway production.

Based on "Green Grow the Lilacs," a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs, the show is set in what was then the Western Indian Territory at the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before Oklahoma became the 46th state in 1907.

Much like Beatrice and Benedick in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," cowboy Curly (Sam Faustine) and neighbor Laurey (Jennifer Mitchell) bicker and pretend to dislike each other when the opposite is true.

Forming the show's other couple are Will Parker (Danila Burshteyn) and Ado Annie Carnes (Erin Yvette). Will is unwavering in his love for Ado Annie, but she's fickle, as illustrated in her "I Cain't Say No." Another candidate for her affections is the humorous Ali Hakim (Mohamed Ismail), a traveling peddlar.

Of course there's a villain, the brooding Jud Fry (John Melis), who's attracted to Laurey.

It's no surprise that all turns out well in the end.

The journey there is a delight with songs like "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Kansas City," "People Will Say We're in Love" and of course the title song.

All of them feature outstanding singing, especially by Faustine, Mitchell, Burshteyn and Yvette.

Directed by Joshua Marx, the large cast is engagingly exuberant and well paced.

The dance highlights of the show are "Kansas City" and "Out of My Dreams." The latter, however, was marred by intonation problems in musical director Sean Kana's orchestra on opening night.

Except for the costumes by Valerie Emmi, design elements detract from the show. The minimal set by Kelly James Tighe features an unsightly backdrop of clouds, and the lighting by Andrea Schwartz leaves some scenes too dark -- unless things weren't working properly at the opening.

Nevertheless, the singing, dancing and acting more than compensate for these shortcomings in the show, which runs about two and half hours with one intermission.

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