Performances will be held on April 29, April 30, and May 5, 6 & 7
Tickets are now on sale for Pioneer Theatre Guild’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first collaboration remains, in many ways, their most innovative, setting the standards and rules of modern musical theatre. In a Western territory just after the turn of the 20th century, a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys provides a colorful background for Curly, a charming cowboy, and Laurey, a feisty farm girl, to play out their love story.
Their romantic journey, as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road, contrasts with the comic exploits of brazen Ado Annie and hapless Will Parker in a musical adventure embracing hope, determination, and the promise of a new land.
The glorious opening notes to Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ which introduce the show are sung by senior Ethan Palms who plays Curly, one of 40 cast members involved in PTG’s production.
Says Palms: “Curly is a young man living in a town he’ll probably live in for the rest of his life. This puts Curly in a box that throughout the show he tries to navigate. [Curly’s] passionate but sometimes that does more harm than good. I relate to Curly through his place in life. He’s experiencing the stresses of moving to a different stage of life. For him, it’s finding someone to settle down with. For me, it’s moving on and out of high school.”
Palms is especially grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the directors who are current students in The University of Michigan’s BFA Musical Theatre program: “One of my favorite things about PTG is that they integrate student directors from UofM SMTD. It’s cool to see how different directors interpret older shows, especially ones who are close to me in age and stage of life,” said Palms.
Luke Mannikus, a junior Musical Theatre major at The University of Michigan, is directing and co-choreographing the production. He is excited to be back with PTG after choreographing PTG’s fall 2022 production of Into The Woods: “I got involved in PTG’s Oklahoma! because I was initially involved with PTG’s Into the Woods as the choreographer and I really loved getting to know the students and I was honored when the producers, Alex, Jayme, and Mysti (PTG Program Directors) asked me to come back and tackle Oklahoma!. I didn’t ever think that I could choreograph and direct this independently, but thankfully Caleb McArthur was completely on board and happy to co-do this with me.”
Mannikus enlisted the help of fellow University of Michigan Musical Theatre major Caleb McArthur to associate direct and co-choreograph Oklahoma! McArthur grew up in the South and has been able to provide insight into dialect, dance styles, and more geographical specificities necessary to understanding the context of the show. McArthur and Mannikus are choosing to focus on the timeless community aspect within the show.
Says McArthur: “I think the reason that it has kind of stood the test of time is it is the granddaddy of all modern musical theatre, but I think the reason is because the sense of community in the show is so palpable, and every time that you go see a production of Oklahoma! you just fall in love with this community, and all the characters. Each character in this is very flawed, but they lead with a lot of love, and so I think just the overall sense of community within Oklahoma! is what makes it so timeless.”
McArthur is also excited to be looking at the material through a more modern lens and says: “I think the beauty of doing Oklahoma! in 2023 is that we’re able to maybe take liberties with characters that you wouldn’t be able to do in the 1930s and 40s. This is an educational space, and so we really like to work in collaboration with the students instead of the traditional production, where they may be just telling the actor exactly what to do, and telling them where to go, when to go, and how they do it. Everyone in the entire company is really making it their own Oklahoma! and it really shows each student’s individuality.”
Alexis Evans is a senior playing Ado Annie, who she describes as a “loving but very anxious girlie who is struggling on just how much fun she can have without making society mad. She starts out having fun and being scared a little bit about what she’s going to do. Her lovers kind of intertwine a little bit and at the end of the show, she settles down, but she doesn’t lose that core part of her. She’s still a fun-loving gal.” Evans says the character has taught her a lot and hopes the audience will also learn from the character that “learning to make compromises without sacrificing big things is really important” and “the importance of staying true to yourself.”
Evans is sure audiences will enjoy Oklahoma! and says: “You’ll fall in love with the characters and their funny little relationships. You’ll see yourself in them and you’ll be rooting for them the whole entire time. That’s the beautiful part about the show…we’re taking a lot of extra care to make Oklahoma a more up-to-date version without losing the core meaning of the show about community, friendships, relationships, and interaction; just simple human interaction.”
In addition to the cast, there are 55 students involved in PTG’s crews including set crew, props crew, lighting crew, sound crew, paint crew, makeup crew, and costumes crew, and 17 students involved in the pit orchestra.
Sets crew senior mentor Molly Reiser is excited to be working on the scenic elements for Oklahoma! because the design features a lot more moving pieces than anything she’s worked on in the past. Molly says: “There is a part of a set that we haven’t started working on yet that I’m super excited for because it’s going to be ambitious and we’re going to try and get some people from robotics to help us with it.”
Molly is excited for audiences to see Oklahoma! because “It’s the result of teamwork and collaboration, and it’s just a bunch of people who have really different lives coming together to make something awesome and it’s gonna be super entertaining and people are going to have a great time.”
After several difficult years as a result of the pandemic and Pioneer theater closures and renovations, PTG is excited for audiences to see the hard work the students have put into this special production. In the words of Associate Director and Co-Choreographer Caleb McArthur, “There is so much joy radiating from these kids, while also not taking away from the story and I think it’s a killer cast, like it’s really stacked. I think that the Ann Arbor community and Pioneer High School community is really going to walk away with their jaws dropped because it is a beast of a show and these kids are not acting like kids. They’re acting like full-fledged adult performers, and it’s really inspiring to watch. I’ve learned a ton just from how much joy and spontaneity that these kids bring to the piece. It’s really exciting, and they’re asking really, really smart questions and it’s really forcing Luke (director) and I to bring our A-game to every single rehearsal, which has been really incredible.”
$15 Students/65+ Seniors/Pioneer Staff
Reserved Seating Tickets are available at www.showtix4u.com/events/ptg
Box office opens one hour prior to shows for cash and check ticket sales.
*For more information, visit:
● Saturday, April 29th, 7:30 pm
● Sunday, April 30th, 2:00 pm (matinee)
● Friday, May 5th, 7:30 pm
● Saturday, May 6th, 7:30 pm
● Sunday, May 7th, 2:00 pm (matinee)
Performances are in Pioneer High School’s Schreiber Auditorium, 601 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor.
Flowers and concessions will be available for purchase in the lobby prior to each performance and during intermission. Cash/Venmo accepted.
Content warning: PTG’s production of Oklahoma! contains moments of darkness, violence, and a few gunshots.