Bran' New State: Oklahoma!, Starring Kelli O'Hara, Celebrates State's Centennial

News   Bran' New State: Oklahoma!, Starring Kelli O'Hara, Celebrates State's Centennial
 
In honor of Oklahoma's statehood centennial, the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma revives the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Oklahoma! June 26-July 1. The romantic musical set in what was considered just "territory" stars Tony Award nominee and state native Kelli O'Hara.
Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase star in the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma's production of Oklahoma!, celebrating the state's centennial.
Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase star in the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma's production of Oklahoma!, celebrating the state's centennial. Photo by Mutz Photography

The impending ratification of the 46th state is referenced in the famed title tune. In 1953, ten years after the musical bowed, "Oklahoma!" became the state's official song.

The romantic love story set in frontier territory stars Oklahoma native O'Hara (Broadway's The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game) as Laurey opposite Will Chase (Broadway's High Fidelity, Aida, Miss Saigon) in the role of Curly.

O'Hara was born in Elk City, OK, and attended high school in Edmond. She studied voice with Florence Birdwell at Oklahoma City University and graduated with a bachelor's of music in vocal performance/opera.

Also set to star are Robert Hunt (Les Misérables) as Jud Fry, Courtney Balan (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) as Ado Annie, Tony nominee John Selya (Movin' Out) as Dream Curly and Melinda Tanner as Aunt Eller. Nathaniel Shaw will play the role of Will Parker, and Amir Arison will appear as Ali Hakim.

Along with featured Broadway artists, the cast of 52 includes dozens of Oklahoma natives, some of whom have worked with the Lyric in the past, and others who will be making their Lyric debut. The cast includes Jeffrey Ambrosini, James Michael Avance, Caitlin Belcik, Andy Biddy, Brian Boyce, Austin Brown, Jillian Bumpas, Barry Busby, Natalie Chung, Osagie D. Ehigie, Robert Estill, Jason Lee Garrett, Brooke Gebb, Christopher Harrod, Dalton Harrod, Kellan Harrod, Heather Hawkins, Amber Hester, Stephen Hilton, Keith D. Hines, Jr., Colte Julian, Kelly Kuhlman, L’Tanya Johnson, Erin McCracken, Garrett McGrew, Camryn McPherson, Parish Mechling, Ashley Mortimer, Taylor Newby, Con O'Shea-Creal, Jaeden Parker, Jonathan Beck Reed, Gabrielle Ruiz, Paul Sabala, Pallavi Sastry, Joie Sherman, Rebecca Ann Salter, John W. Steele, Cyndi Steele-Harrod, Addie Tomlinson, Sarah Turpen, Carly Waddell, Robert Windsor, Lexi Windsor and Sarah Zeringue. Lyric Theatre artistic director Nick Demos directs the production, with music direction by Joel Levine and choreography by Demos and Ce Ce Farha. Associate choreographers are Ashley Stover Wells, Lyn Cramer and Amy Reynolds-Reed. Scenery is designed by Michael Schweikardt, costumes by Jeffrey Meek, lighting by Helena Kuukka and sound by George Ryan.

Oklahoma!, the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, was originally titled Away We Go. However, out-of-town tryouts saw the addition of the title song Oklahoma! which was so rousing, it became the title of the musical as well.

In 1944, the Pulitzer Prize committee honored Rodgers and Hammerstein with a Special Award (Letters) for Oklahoma!, though this was technically not the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. They would have to wait a few years for that — for South Pacific.

Oklahoma! plays at the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For information call (405) 524-9312 or visit www.lyrictheatreokc.com.

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Lyric's season will also include Evita, Singin' in the Rain, Once On This Island and a special add-on production of Disney's High School Musical.

Robert Hunt, Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase star in the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma's <i>Oklahoma!</i>, celebrating the state's centennial.
Robert Hunt, Kelli O'Hara and Will Chase star in the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma's Oklahoma!, celebrating the state's centennial. Photo by Mutz Photography
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