Oklahoma! offers a wagonload of dancin' and romancin'

Laurey (Sarah Lane) dances with Curly McLain (Graham Brockley) as Dave Ehle’s Jud Fry glowers in a scene from the South Island Musical Society’s Oklahoma! - Andrew Leong
Laurey (Sarah Lane) dances with Curly McLain (Graham Brockley) as Dave Ehle’s Jud Fry glowers in a scene from the South Island Musical Society’s Oklahoma!
— image credit: Andrew Leong

The timeless, sweeping Broadway music Oklahoma! returns to Cowichan this week with 50 South Island Musical Society members slapping stage leather.

They're being led through Rodgers & Hammerstein's Pulitzer Prize-winning singalong score by choreographer Cathy Schmidt, music director Hilary Coupland, and drama director Leslie Croghan.

"SIMS did Oklahoma! many years ago, and how can you not be involved?" Schmidt asked. "We have an amazing cast, and it's a challenge as a choreographer with some great musical numbers."

Familiar songs span Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' , Pore Jud is Daid, People Will Say We're In Love, All Er Nuthin', Kansas City, and many more — some involving footwork as farm gal Laurey (Sarah Lane) is courted by cowpoke Curley (Dr. Graham Brockley).

"The two lead characters know what they want but don't know how to get there — it takes Jud to get them together," said dance coach Schmidt.

"We had to teach our men's chorus tap a bit, and they rose to the challenge," she said of rehearsals saddled Oct. 9.

"Josiah George (as Will Parker) has a soft shoe in Kansas City, and so do the men — the whole cast also does a time-step during Farmer and the Cowman in the opening of act two."

But Oklahoma! is more than Prairie prancin' and romancin'.

Schmidt pointed to loner Jud (Dave Ehle) who lends a darker side.

"The struggle Jud goes through as a human being shows he's not just the bad guy. The dream sequence will leave the audience saying 'Wow.'"

That's what Ehle said of a stage role to perk his daily grind.

"I'm in my late '40s and was getting bored," the mental-health worker said. "I was looking for something I haven't done before for a spark to life."

He found it in the Jud character.

"Jud's isolated and lives alone in a smokehouse. In modern terms, he'd be the porn-addicted social outcast.

"He'd like to meet a woman but doesn't have the skills; he's really a modern character," said Ehle, who's task was tackling singing duty. "I sing in the shower."

Soft-soap is added by SIMS' veteran Cliff Braaten. He's cast as travelling salesman Ali Hakim — while building sets with Chris Killam and Brad Heyde.

"We've got an old, 16-foot windmill. The other major sets are Jud's smokehouse, and Aunt Eller's (Lara Cardriver) two-story house."

Construction happened in a former Pioneer Square bistro turned workshop.

"The biggest challenge was figuring out if if it all works, and fits together," Braaten said, citing pneumatic air-casters for on stage movement.

Meanwhile, Schmidt was stoked about Oklahoma's main event.

"This truly is a love story."


Your ticket

What: Oklahoma!

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1, 2, 8 and 9; 2 p.m. Feb. 3.

Where: Cowichan Theatre

Tickets: $32, $27 from SIMS members; Feb. 1 premiere $20, $8 students. Call 250-748-7529.

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