Brand New State: Arena Stage Opens New Season and New Complex With Oklahoma! Oct. 22

News   Brand New State: Arena Stage Opens New Season and New Complex With Oklahoma! Oct. 22
Optimism surrounds the re-opening of the expanded and renovated new Arena Stage headquarters in Washington, DC, so it's only fitting that Oklahoma!, which brims with optimism, is the opening show of the season. Previews begin Oct. 22.

Valisia LeKae and Nicholas Rodriguez
Valisia LeKae and Nicholas Rodriguez Photo by Scott Suchman

Artistic director Molly Smith directs the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical on the Fichandler Stage, the company's signature in-the-round space at the newly constructed Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest DC. An open house on Oct. 23 introduces the public to the new venue. A black-tie gala celebrating Arena's 60th season is presented on Oct. 25.

A multicultural cast takes on the musical about farmers and cowmen and their dreams of a "brand new state" (and happy love lives) in the Oklahoma Indian territory of the early 1900s. Performances play to Dec. 26. Opening night is Nov. 4.

DC favorite E. Faye Butler (Arena Stage's Crowns, Ain't Misbehavin') stars as Aunt Eller, with Valisia LeKae (Broadway's Ragtime, 110 in the Shade) as Laurey and Nicholas Rodriguez (Broadway's Tarzan) as Curly. The cast also boasts Aaron Ramey (Broadway's Curtains, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Jud, Cody Williams (making his Arena Stage debut) as Will Parker, June Schreiner (a high school junior at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, who was discovered in last summer's Arena Stage Academy Musical Theater Training Company) as Ado Annie Carnes and Nehal Joshi (Roundabout's Threepenny Opera) as Ali Hakim.

Director Smith said in a statement, "This is a moment of great joy and optimism for the new Arena Stage, and so too it was for Oklahoma, a frontier on the cusp of becoming a state. My idea is simple: I want to create an Oklahoma that looks and feels like it's 1907 on the frontier — a place in the middle of becoming. Our production of Oklahoma! reflects Arena and America today: modern, diverse and cross-cultural."

The production team includes music director George Fulginiti-Shakar and choreographer Parker Esse. "The sound of our production will be a cross between the lushness of a symphonic orchestra and the plain-folkiness of a western string band," Fulginiti-Shakar said in a statement. "We are using a restored score just released with the addition of a fiddle, banjo, harmonica and rhythm." Tony Award-winning designers Eugene Lee (set) and Martin Pakledinaz (costume) are also on the creative team, along with assistant director Anita Maynard-Losh, assistant musical director Mary Sugar, assistant scenic designer Tristan Jeffers, choreographer Parker Esse, assistant choreographer Ashley Yeater, fight choreographer David Leong, lighting designer Michael Gilliam, sound designer Tim Thompson, stage manager Susan R. White, assistant stage manager Jenna Henderson, production assistant Alexandria Wood and dramaturg Janine Sobeck.

The cast also includes Philip Michael Baskerville (Cord Elam), Andrew Hodge (Slim), Shane Rhoades (Fred), Vincent Rodriguez III (Sam), Anton Harrison LaMon (Jess), Cara Massey (Gertie), Emilee Dupre (Vivian), Annie Petersmeyer (Virginia), Jessica Wu (Kate), Cyana Cook (Ellen), Semhar Ghedremichael (Aggie), Hollie E. Wright (Sylvie/Dream Laurey), Kyle Vaughn (Mike/Dream Curly), Kurt Boehm (Male Swing) and Jessica Hartman (Female Swing).

For tickets and information, visit or call (202) 488-3300.

E. Faye Butler and Valisia LeKae
E. Faye Butler and Valisia LeKae Photo by Scott Suchman
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