Vintage musical offers color, fun

October 13, 1995|By PHIL GREENFIELD | PHIL GREENFIELD,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"Oklahoma" never ceases to amaze me with its opening scenes, which bring us "Oh What A Beautiful Morning," "Kansas City," "I Cain't Say No," "Many A New Day" and "People Will Say We're In Love" within the first 20 minutes.

Yes, the plot may be a bit on the nonexistent side, but if there's ever been a comparable outpouring of melody in the history of the American musical stage, I sure haven't heard it.

The Pasadena Theatre Company's current production of "Oklahoma" may not exactly scale the musical heights of the first Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece, but it is a fun, colorful affair that's worth seeing despite its few rough spots.

Especially impressive are Pasadena's secondary players, who bring real talent and energy to those distinctive Rodgers and Hammerstein characters.

Elizabeth Anderson and Jim Raistrick are excellent as spunky, nubile Ado Annie and her doltish suitor, Will Parker.

Ms. Anderson contributes a wonderfully flirty "I Cain't Say No," and Mr. Raistrick fills us in nicely on the latest cultural advantages Kansas City has to offer and throws down the gauntlet to his fickle sweetheart with a spirited "All 'er Nuthin.' "

Feisty old Aunt Eller and Ali Hakim the peddler are in the capable hands of Jane Wingard and Doug Kotula, and you'll also enjoy the chorus of cowpokes led by Larry Goldstein's Ike Skidmore and Al Chopey, who lights up the stage as Andrew Carnes, Annie's gun-totin' pa.

I also was intrigued by Kevin Wheatley's subtler-than-usual portrayal of creepy Jud Fry, the Neanderthalish hired hand who provides the show with its darker moments.

What's missing early in the show's run is the requisite sparkle from its two romantic leads.

John Guyton sings pretty well as Curly, the amiable cowboy, and I like the way he delivers his lines -- when he isn't rushing them along, that is. But his facial expressions are just too deadpan to register the emotions that make his character tick. As a result, his songs make no emotional impact.

Linda Swann has the right idea as Laurey but could use more time in the practice room doing whatever vocalises she can get her hands on. Her singing voice is a tad shrill and flutters off pitch a little too often for comfort.

The orchestra plays valiantly, but needs to keep it down when the actors are talking. The underscoring drowns out the acting with unfortunate regularity.

They might just as well have skipped the choreography altogether, but costumes and sets are terrific.

The production plays Thursdays through Sundays until Oct. 28 at historic Baldwin Hall in Millersville.

For ticket information and show times, call 923-7687.

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