David Rodeback's Blog

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006
People Will Say We're in Love . . .

Now that was a fun evening.

Now that was a fun evening.

Five-sixths of the local Rodebacks went last evening to Oklahoma! at American Fork Junior High, for the reasonable price of $25.00. It was sponsored by the American Fork and Highland arts councils, but drew some good cast members from other nearby communities, too. I was optimistic, but I still ended up enjoying the production more than I anticipated. This cast as a whole won't be swarming, Muppet-like, to Broadway, but the singing, acting, dancing, sets, etc., were quite good, and more than adequate for a community production. The audience itself at this final performance was large and enthusiastic.

I don't expect a fully professional production, but I'm not trying to be a cheerleader, either, and I don't look at arts in the community through rose-colored glasses. So I note that there were a few inadequacies. The sound system at the Junior High leaves a great deal to be desired, but that's not news. (We build almost palatial schools for our children, but we can't put a good sound system in the AFJH auditorium?) The fog machine in the dream sequence noisily provided more unintended comedy than it did fog (but the dancing it accompanied was good). And I prefer a live orchestra, though I certainly understand the logistical complexities of that, not to mention the obvious lack of an orchestra pit at the AFJH auditorium.

I should also note that, according to the Deseret Morning News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and the Daily Herald, the venue for this production was the American Fork Amphitheater, which suggests a late move to American Fork Junior High due to inclement weather.

But back to the good stuff.

The first musical I ever saw live was Oklahoma!, a high school production circa 1978. The second was also Oklahoma!, a community production. I've seen several other musicals live, and a reasonable amount of non-musical theater, too, in community, university, or professional productions. I've done some work on the stage myself, in small roles and large, and played in the orchestra a few times. Someday, if I can find a community theater desperate enough, I'd love to play Tevye. But I would call myself an occasional dabbler, not an actor or a theater critic. With that disclaimer, I note:

I appreciated this production's inclusion of some music that is often omitted. It didn't make the show too long.

Brooke Hess is my favorite Ado Annie ever. You wouldn't want your daughters to learn morals from the "girl who cain't say no" -- I'm referring to the character, not the actress -- but she lit up the stage last night.

Bob McMillan is new to the stage but managed to steal some scenes as Ali Hakim. I'm still trying to figure out his accent, but this is an Arab peddler in Oklahoma, so accents are pretty much up for grabs, anyway. Note to self: When you go to church with a guy, you don't always realize there's a delightful comic actor just under the surface.

Emma Bullock was everything Laurey should be. She was beautiful, sang and spoke beautifully, and found a delightful balance of hauteur, sass, and girlish longing.

The cynical snob (or snobbish cynic) in me typically approaches an amateur arts production with of bit of trepidation. Will it be something to enjoy or to endure? In Oklahoma! Curly gets to make the first musical impression -- except the overture, which in this case was taped and therefore doesn't count -- and he's all alone in doing it. Last evening, Mason Lefler hadn't sung eight measures before I banished the snob and the cynic in me and decided this would be a production to enjoy. He has a pleasing voice and seems at home on the stage.

Eileen Snow's Aunt Eller was the charming, well-tempered work of a stage veteran.

Perhaps the best acting performance of all was by Jacob Shamy, who played misanthropic hired hand and porn addict Jud Fry. He finally decides that pictures of unclad females aren't real enough, but he doesn't have the social skills to get what he wants by any method other than physical and psychological force. The actor in this lone dark role must singlehandedly counterbalance an entire light-hearted comedy -- even sometimes participate in the comedy -- without slipping into the two-dimensional cardboard villainy of melodrama. Shamy nailed it. His speech, singing, posture, walk, and general demeanor were just right.

Finally, a confession: This is the first community musical -- actually, the first community theater of any kind -- I recall attending in American Fork. But for MFCC's sense of duty, we'd probably have saved our $25.00 and opted for that family home evening lesson we've been putting off. I'm glad we actually went, and as far as I could tell, a lot of other folks were glad to be there, too. Next time, we might not need anyone's sense of duty to get us there. The expectation of a similarly fine evening will likely be enough.

David Rodeback comments (9/31/06):

I should note that the high school production of Oklahoma! which I attended in the previous century was at my eventual alma mater, Snake River High School, just outside Blackfoot, Idaho. "An SR man am I . . ."

Jordan Long (Slim in the production) comments (12/31/06):

I was in the show and really enjoyed reading your review. Thank you!

David Rodeback replies (1/6/07):

Nice work! Thanks for reading and commenting. I only mentioned the leads by name, but others were excellent in their roles, too. Frankly, I was too busy enjoying the show to sort out, for example, which cowboy was which and to attach some specific observations to a specific name. But all the cowboys were good -- a judgment shared by my (four) eyes and my (two) ears, to be sure.

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