The Hudson Music Club (HMC), celebrating 61 years of musical merriment, presents the Rogers and Hammerstein 1943 hit Oklahoma!, a co-production with the Hudson Village Theatre (HVT), from March 6 to 23.
"There are more than 20 people in the cast of this show and it's that 'plen'y of heart' spirit that keeps us going and our audiences coming back," said president and co-producer, Gail Marchand. She went on to say, "It's an absolute thrill for us to bring our annual production to a professional stage". HVT General Manager, Kalina Skulska, remarked, "Hudson Village Theatre believes strongly in working with local groups. The Hudson Music Club is a perfect example of the kind of community-based partnership we take great pride in supporting."
The script, written phonetically to mimic Oklahoma speech, was a challenge. "We've had a lot of laughs in rehearsals trying to get that 'gosh darn' accent right. Some of the lines are downright tongue-twisters," confided Karen Cromar, co-director working alongside Glen Bowser. Cromar first worked with HMC in the 1990's when she moved to the area. "I got my start in community theatre and it's been fun coming back to it with this show." Bowser too launched his professional career gaining experience in community theatre. His association with HMC goes back to the 70's. "Karen and I were both in The Music Man back in '98," he recalled. "We're enjoying the familiar camaraderie we remember from back in the day."
Co-producer André Marchand explained, "We are a club in the true sense. We have a membership and a different event almost every month of the year like our Café St-Jacques in May, the potluck BBQ for the AGM, the Hudson Street Fair, Broadway in the Park, and our Hoe Down every fall. The best thing about HMC is that we're family, figuratively and literally. Three generation of my own family are involved in HMC activities."
Depicting Oklahoma, with its waving fields of wheat and sprawling cattle ranches, hoe downs and outdoor picnics is a tall order but veteran set designer Jean-Claude Olivier captures the look and feel of Oklahoma Territory before it became a state in 1907.
Though Sheila Engel Katz returns as musical director, her job description has evolved since there are no musicians to conduct. "We needed to reproduce a live orchestra to deliver the same calibre of show our audiences expect." The company did their research and discovered Sinfonia by Realtime Music Solutions, a company that supplies recorded musical theatre accompaniments. Katz explained: "The flexibility of the program is quite remarkable, allowing us slow down, speed up, or even stop, to lend dramatic or comedic focus where we want it."
Rounding out the design team is Terry Girouard as choreographer, Gail Marchand as costume designer, Raymond Dubuc as lighting designer and Anika Ninacs as assistant to the director. Add to that the 22-member cast, the aforementioned set designer, co-producers and co-directors as well as the countless volunteers designing the program, selling ads, sewing costumes, building and painting sets and much more- it's one heck of a team effort.
As with all HMC productions, proceeds are given to local non-profits and this year HMC is donating to Le Pont/Bridging Food Bank and the Hudson Youth Center, two local charities it has supported since 2011.
This is the first musical written by the famous duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and it won them a special Pulitzer Prize. Before 'book musicals', musical theatre focussed on making audiences laugh but the overwhelming popularity of shows like Showboat and Oklahoma! changed that forever. This story is based on the 1931 Lynn Riggs novel, Green Grow the Lilacs, which takes place at the dawn of the 20th Century when the area was comprised of two Territories, Oklahoma and Indian. Cattle ranching and farming were the leading vocations however farming was rapidly seizing more and more of the land, rendering 'cow men' redundant. The play exposes the socio-economic shift when cowhand Curly McLaine sells his horse and saddle so he can bid on his sweetheart's picnic basket and win her heart. He laments his lost profession as, without a horse and saddle, he can't get work, forcing him to learn farming, a completely foreign occupation. It's interesting to note that avaricious farming practices quickly rendered the state a 'dust bowl' during the depression.