Last weekend my roomate, Tara and I took the Markham Road 102 bus out to Scarborough Village Theatre to see a musical we have heard about our entire lives yet never managed to see. We chose not to spoil the material for ourselves and went into Meg Gibson’s production of Oklahoma! blind.
Love story? Check. Cowboys? Check. Dream sequence? Check. Scarborough Music Theatre’s rendition of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, Oklahoma!, directed by Meg Gibson has all this and more. Oklahoma! follows the story of young Laurey Williams and her Aunt Eller on their farm in the territory of Oklahoma (now a red state) circa 1906. A cowboy named Curly, played by Charles Davidson, is sweet on Laurey, played by Carina Cautillo, and tries to win her over by promising her “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” to take her to the box social that night. However, Laurey refuses because Curly took too long to ask her. Later, Laurey tells farmhand Jud Fry, played brilliantly by Antonio Ortega, that he may escort her to the social event of the season.
The play wants us to favour Curly over Jud but my roommate and I found Jud much more alluring. In one scene, Curly tries to convince Jud to hang himself, so he doesn’t have to compete with him for Laurey’s affections, though he says it’s because this is the only way Jud will ever feel truly appreciated. (Tara says that using the internet to encourage people to end their lives is actually now a federal crime). Frankly, this scene among others regarding Jud are extremely difficult to watch given the current misinformation being given by Donald Trump about “The Caravan” and because Curly is a white man and Jud is a Latino man. It was hard not to perceive the way the other characters treated Jud as racist, given the fact that they are all white and he is Latino. We are even treated to a Brett Kavanaugh style kangaroo courtcase at one point in the show. We think all of this was brilliantly done by SMT, and we are meant to think of the main townspeople as antagonists in 2018. Given that this musical was first seen on Broadway in 1943, a lot of the content seems very dated in 2018. My mom even commented that Oklahoma! was “very 50s” when I mentioned that I had seen it, probably because of how popular the 1955 film version was when she was younger. It is certainly an interesting choice for Scarborough Music Theatre, and features a lot of young talent. Tara was happy to see Shai Tannyan in another Scarborough Music Theatre production, as she did such an incredible job as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family Musical. Laura Currie and Liam Donovan, who played Ado Annie Carnes and Will Parker respectively, are both high school students and did a commendable job in their roles.
Kathy Knight gave a standout performance as Aunt Eller, and did a phenomenal job of staying in character during the 50/50 draw to make it feel like part of the play.
Without giving away the ending, we wanted to comment to say that although it wasn’t intended to feel incredibly dark, it definitely did for the two of us, and that in the year 2018, the author’s writing for the final scene reeks of class-ism, but would have been par for the course in 1906 when the play takes place, as well as when it enjoyed its heyday on Broadway in the 40s and 50s.
Tara and I want to point out how great it was that those with hearing aids could tune into the play’s sound system on a particular channel, or use a headset that can be picked up from the box office.
Next up for Scarborough Music Theatre is the Christmas Sing-A-Long Cabaret on Monday, December 10th at 7:30pm followed by Next To Normal debuting February 8, 2019.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! presented by Scarborough Music Theatre, is running until November 17th at the Scarborough Village Theatre, located at 3600 Kingston Rd. in Scarborough. For tickets, please click here.