‘Oklahoma!’ Roars into Town at The Bickford in Morristown

Aunt Eller (Katy Cockrell from Scotch Plains) brings the "box social brawl" to a halt in "The Farmer and the Cowman."

MORRISTOWN, NJ – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first big hit, “Oklahoma!” is making a grand appearance at The Bickford Theatre in the Morris Museum in Morristown.

The production is performed by the New Jersey Youth Theatre, with stunning voices and an excellent orchestra. The musical continues through Aug. 10.

Mason Kugelman as Curly as a dream of a singing voice and frequently dominates the stage. His love interest, Laure, is played by Erica Morreale. Although small in stature, Morreale's soprano floats beautifully through the air. Then there’s the down-to earth Aunt Eller, played by Katy Cockrell and the humorous “love birds,” Ado Annie (Samantha Tropper) and Will Parker (Zachary Love.)  Annie is also pursued by the traveling salesman Ali Hakim (Ariel Scharzer).

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But what really keeps the show engrossing are those perennial Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes, from the romantic duet “People will Say We’re in love” to the opening number “On What a Beautiful Morning.” When you hear Curly’s voice off stage just before his entrance, you know you’re in for a musical treat.

The large ensemble cast brings the title song to life and the amusing “Kansas City” is a joy. Andrew Martinez as the hire hand, Jud Fry, is excellent as a lonely man who has murderous tendencies. The story is based on a novel, “Green Grow the Lilacs” and is directed by Cynthia Meryl. Costumes by Deborah Caney and a clever set design by J. Eric Harriz round out the show. The broad proscenium stage t the Bickford can often be a challenge. Here, they used painted curtain for a change of scene and smooth transition

The musical direction is handled by Matthew Webb, with sprightly choreography by Sherry Alban.

The only negative is the length of this play, about three hours. Years ago, this would have been divided into three acts. But now we have an hour and half first act and just about as long for the second, even with fewer songs.  Most of the appealing music is sung early on in Act I. No doubt the dream sequence could be shortened and some of the antics toned down. for a tighter production.

Still, it’s always lovely to hear Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lyrical words and music. For tickets to “Oklahoma!” call (973) 971-3706.

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