'Oklahoma!' sings in Playhouse show

November 20, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park is not usually in our bailiwick, but the "Oklahoma!" being offered there by 2nd Star Productions more than justifies the interest of us Arundel types.

The cast is full of people from Annapolis, Arnold, Glen Burnie and points in between. And you'll recognize any number of Colonial Players, Summer Garden and Annapolis Opera veterans amid the colorful farmers and cowhands of the old Oklahoma Territory.

Also unmistakable is the sassy choreography of Edgewater's Bobbi Smith, who not only directs the local Talent Machine but is one herself.

I suspected this production would be worth a visit, and I was right. Indeed, for color, enthusiasm, characterization and first-rate singing, this is one of the best amateur productions of "Oklahoma!" that you'll ever see. It could provide a delightful infusion of zing into the opening days of your holiday season.

For starters, all of the leads can sing. Not a runt in the litter. There are some scratchy moments from the vocal ensemble in "Out of my Dreams," and Mary Payne Lawson as Laurey is forced to sprint through a hyperactive "Many a New Day" by the tempo on the otherwise excellent recorded tape. But, elsewhere, the eternal melodies of Richard Rodgers' celestial score sound as fresh and compelling as you'd want them to.

Lawson and Klaude Krannebitter, who is cast as Curly, Laurey's love interest, are handsomely matched as romantic leads. You often find older actors (looking out of character) in these roles because real baritones and true lyric sopranos are tough to come by among the younger set. Here, they sing the parts and look them, too.

Not only does Lawson have a sweet and fresh voice, she also can act. The scene where she finally tells off ornery, menacing Jud Fry, played to chilling effect by Chuck Richards, is the dramatic high point of the show.

Krannebitter sings beautifully, bringing a nice mix of lovesickness and swagger to the part. Alas, I giggled at him through his entire opening scene, clad as he was in ridiculously revealing chaps that made him look like a Chippendale cowpoke.

Hijacking scene after scene are Colleen Rossiter as a delightfully dumb and nubile Ado Annie and Jason Kimmell, who dances up a storm as Annie's put-upon beau, Will Parker. Rossiter is a budding star, and Kimmell a consummate song-and-dance man.

Both received loud applause from the capacity crowd that saw them last Saturday.

The very funny Joe Brunetti brought Mediterranean flair to the role of Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler who seemed to have flown in for this performance.

Pat Diehl's Aunt Eller might have been a little stiff in the face, but she brought plenty of energy to her lines and songs when it counted. Kudos also to Dan Lang, who sounded terrific in "The Farmer and the Cowman."

Wonderful Bobbi Smith choreography, with cowboy boots and petticoats twirling every which way, clinches the deal on this altogether winning production.

"Oklahoma!" will be presented Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons through Dec. 6.

Ticket information: 410-798-7001.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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