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The Bard SummerScape Production of "Oklahoma!" at Circle in the Square
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The Bard SummerScape Production of "Oklahoma!" at Circle in the Square

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The Bard SummerScape Production of
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s
(Oklahoma! Website)

Music by Richard Rodgers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs
Original Choreography by Agnes De Mille

Directed by Daniel Fish

With: Will Brill, Anthony Cason, Damon Daunno
James Davis, Gabrielle Hamilton, Rebecca Naomi Jones
Will Mann, Mallory Portnoy, Ali Stroker, Mitch Tebo
Mary Testa, Patrick Vaill

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Circle in the Square
(Circle in the Square Website)
50th Street, at 1633 Broadway

Scenic Design: Laura Jellinek
Costume Design: Terese Wadden
Lighting Design: Scott Zielinski
Sound Design: Drew Levy
Projection Design: Joshua Thorson
Special Effects: Jeremy Chernick
Technical Supervision: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Casting: Telsey + Company,
William Cantler CSA / Adam Caldwell / CSA
Music Director & Additional Vocal Arrangements:
Nathan Koci
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Orchestrations, Arrangements, Music Supervision:
Daniel Kluger
Choreographed by John Heginbotham
Production Stage Manager: James D. Latus
Press: DKC/O&M
Advertising: RPM
Interactive Marketing: Situation Interactive
General Manager: RCI Theatricals
Company Manager: Jason Haft

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 11, 2019

Expecting a bright golden haze on the meadow, and finding tables of chili pots and walls of rifles, I remained open-minded about one of my longtime favorite musicals, and had so looked forward to De Mille’s dream ballet. But, lo and behold, Daniel Fish’s new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 Oklahoma at Circle in the Square was a refreshing delight. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love a traditional revival in the near future, for that meadow and ballet, but, for tonight, my guest and I found the show riveting. To my joyous surprise, Ali Stroker, whom I had met at a Drama Desk panel event, was playing the role of Ado Annie, and one of my favorite comedic actresses, Mary Testa, was Aunt Eller.

For much of this revival, with seating in the round, the lights remain bright and the aroma of chili, served to the audience at intermission, wafts through the air. An immediate jolt is the lineup of rifles adorning the wall, and I started to hum about Jud in my mind. Jud Fry (Patrick Vaill), a character woven into the dramatic relationship between Laurey Williams (Rebecca Naomi Jones) and Curly McLain (Damon Daunno), has a seething demeanor and dark gaze. Ms. Stroker as Ado Annie, in her own romance with Will Parker (James Davis), catches the eye with her feverish ebullience. Their romance is light-hearted and ingenue, with Curly and Laurey in heated anguish, as Jud seeks to steal Laurey with awkward seduction. Ms. Testa, as Aunt Eller handles the corn husking and chili stirring and ego mending. A town character, Ali Hakim (Will Brill), adds bawdy behavior to the moment.

The orchestra, led by Nathan Koci, has among its instruments an accordion, mandolin, banjo, and lots of guitars, including Curly’s. The program did not list musical numbers, but, of course, we heard Curly’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”, here sung with layers of yearning, Ado Annie’s “I Can’t Say No”, propelling her in a showstopper, and “People Will Say We’re in Love”, crooned by Curly and Laurey. “Pore Jud is Dead” is whispered in tonal melodrama by Curly and Jud, chiaroscuro, on a movie screen with the house lights out, and the splendidly iconic title tune is performed by the orchestra and ensemble. The dream ballet does not exist here in Agnes De Mille’s choreography, but rather Mr. Fish has added Gabrielle Hamilton’s solo, quasi-improvisational, modern dance in a sparkling nightshirt with a dream motif, to atmospheric music. This is a modernized, synthesized version of a favorite musical, and Mr. Fish’s liberties in staging and characterization are fine for this particular show.

Would I like to see a new revival of the original show with bucolic sets, frilly dresses, a final scene that’s more to the original book, a dream ballet with De Mille’s choreography, a generally more orchestral, sumptuous approach? Sure, but for this season and this night, Daniel Fish’s Bard SummerScape production is perfect. The show evokes communal spirit, with Laurey so conflicted and real people with real emotions surrounding her in the moment. I’d like to read Lynn Riggs’ “Green Grow the Lilacs” to explore her literary intent and tone. The entire cast and music ensemble worked cohesively and collaboratively. This is not a company of stars and supporting actors. This is a true ensemble, and they genuinely supported each other, making way for actors as the action takes place about the periphery of long wooden communal tables.

Laura Jellinek’s scenery, including the walls of rifles and those communal tables for actors to always be visible, sets the production’s synthesized, wide open motif. Terese Wadden’s costumes are imbued with homespun comfort, evocative of Oklahoma, a century ago. Scott Zielinski’s lighting and Drew Levy’s sound keep the action mostly bright and vibrant, but when the lights flash off periodically, in dramatic plot twists, the softest sounds become integral to the mood. Joshua Thorson’s projections gave us Curly and Jud in heated contention. Daniel Kluger’s orchestrations and arrangements are indicative of the show’s tight focus, with each instrument in clear view. No orchestra pit here. Kudos to Daniel Fish and the cast and crew of this production of Oklahoma.

Rebecca Naomi Jones & Damon Daunno
in "Oklahoma!" on Broadway
Courtesy of Little Fang Photo

The Cast of "Oklahoma!" on Broadway
Courtesy of Little Fang Photo

See a Testimonial of Daniela Trattoria's New Redesign.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at