Charlotte Christian’s portrayal of “Oklahoma!” started out as a complete mystery to me. I was unfamiliar with the plot, characters, dance numbers, and songs; truthfully, I had never heard of this acclaimed musical.
I was seated next to another student critic who was also there to review the performance. As the lights dimmed, I quickly realized that I was unable to keep up with the vast extent of criticisms and constructive comments that my fellow critiquer was managing to jot down.
I set my pen down and was struck by the outstanding performance of the leading lady, Caroline Kasay, playing Laurey Williams and her – spoiler alert – cowboy Romeo, Curly McClain, portrayed by Graham Baker.
Although I do not recall ever being out West, I felt strangely nostalgic as I listened to the opening musical number, “Oh, What a Beautiful Feeling.” I hoped that the rest of the musical would compare to the tone set by this lighthearted song. Thankfully, the cast and crew made sure that my wish came true.
The Western theme that held this performance together was continuously fresh on my mind due to the cast’s notable ability to stick with their deep accents, even while singing solos. At times, I found it slightly difficult to keep up with what was being said. Strangely enough, I think this was a good thing, as it showed just how genuine and thick their Western drawls were.
However, not all of the accents were those belonging to cowboys and farmers; Brad Kesling, staying true to his role of Ali Hakim, spoke with a crowd-pleasing gypsy twang. Kesling brought humor to the Charlotte Christian stage as he played the part of a swindling salesman, scamming his way into money and out of a marriage with Ado Annie, portrayed by Marta Case.
Another notable performance was Adam Burnam who played the dark role of Jud Fry. His ability to stay in the creepy character as the plot unfolded was evident; I became nervous every time he stepped onto the stage, wearing torn up overalls and a cryptic expression.
I did manage to make a note or two as Burnam and Baker harmonized in the “smokehouse” during the musical number “Por Jud is Daid.”
Although Burnam attempted to kill Baker a time or two, Baker survived and emerged as one of my favorite performances of the night. His voice was smooth and never fluctuated, his not-so-subtle charm seemed like second nature, and he even had the dimples for his role as a true gentleman.
As the musical continued, and the plot became less of mystery to me, I was truly amazed by the dance numbers accomplished by the cast. Every choreographed cue and step revealed the emotions felt by each character in the story. Cast members paired up and shuffled across the stage while a few talented girls flawlessly tumbled in front of the set. I momentarily forgot that this was a group of high school students that, while perfecting their roles for the performance, still managed to juggle school and social lives. Each cast member performed with noteworthy enthusiasm, revealing their passion and knack for the dramatic arts.
I had heard so many positive appraisals about the Charlotte Christian theater department. After seeing Oklahoma!, I now understand why it is given such acclaim.