Rockne Roll/News-Register##“Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” sings Will (Robert Salberg, right) in a number featuring fellow cowboys (such as Erik Svec, left) and Aunt Eller (Pam Harris).
Rockne Roll/News-Register##“Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” sings Will (Robert Salberg, right) in a number featuring fellow cowboys (such as Erik Svec, left) and Aunt Eller (Pam Harris).
By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Review: Gallery's 'Oklahoma' is much better than OK

Director Kelly Janssen and her cast give us a terrific version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical. The songs are memorable, the comedy on point and the visuals, especially the big group song-and-dance numbers, are a real treat.

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“Oklahoma!” takes place in 1906, just as the territory is about to become a state. Settlers have suffered through some hard times, but they’re hardy folk, survivors who are filled with hope for the future.

Cowboy Curly, for instance, has hope for a future with Laurey, who runs a farm with her Aunt Eller (Pam Harris, who’s just right as the feisty and tolerant pioneer woman). The audience can see that Laurey (Karen Kumley, who sings better than a scissor-tailed flycatcher, the Oklahoma state bird) feels the same way, yet both pretend indifference.

Curly finally breaks through her defenses by describing the “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” he’s hired to take her to the box supper, but just as she starts to swoon he tells her he made the whole thing up to fool her.

To spite him, she agrees to go with Jud (Webb Thomas), the scary hired man. And to spite her, Curly says there really is a fancy surrey and invites Aunt Eller to ride in it with him.

As the Curly- Laurey courtship plays out, another girl, Ado Annie (Ashley Benham-Bertolini), tries to figure out which of her suitors is her favorite. When she looks into the eyes of cowboy Will (Robert Salberg), she loves him. But when he’s away, she’s easily swayed by just about any other man.

At the moment, it’s a traveling salesman (John Hamilton, who’s flat-out funny in the role) who adores Ado Annie’s easy-going nature, but has no intention of settling down. Why, it would take a daddy with a shotgun to get him to the altar, wouldn’t it?

All the principals do a fine job, and so do those in less prominent and background roles. There’s a real spark between Curly and Laurey and between Ado Annie and ... whomever. And the numbers featuring all the girls, such as “Many a New Day,” or all the boys, such as “Kansas City,” are especially charming.

The costumes look good, although some are too new and dust-free to be realistic. The faded jeans on the cowboys are a nice touch, as are the boots and Western clothing. And Ado Annie’s bright dresses and petticoats are just right for her character.

The dream sequence is both enjoyable to watch and appropriately disturbing, as Laurey’s subconscious worries about the two men in her life. Kalie Ferry, who did a great job choreographing the show, does beautifully as Laurey’s dreamy dancing self; I only wish she’d worn a blonde ponytail to make her look more like the dreamer.

Because the show is so good, I’ll mention a few things that would have improved the experience — minor, but noticeable.

First, cast members sometimes try too hard to convince us they have an Oklahoma accent. Actors, y’all would be better off not emphasizin’ pronunciations like “meduh” (where that bright golden haze is) and “piesin” (what the rattlesnake injects when it bites).

More important, the sound level is uneven. Most of the singers wear microphones, which is much appreciated. However, some don’t seem to have them, or maybe the mics were not working. As a result, lyrics get lost.

The dichotomy is especially obvious during Curly and Jud’s duet. Poor Jud! We cannot hear him.

The problem arises again in “The Farmer and the Cowman” number, which is otherwise a swirling, foot-stomping delight. 

In addition, I yearned for some wind to come rushing down the plain and turn that windmill next to Aunt Eller’s house.

The windmill, the rustic buildings and the cornfields all look wonderful on the set, but that cute little heifer making eyes at Curly sure is going to get thirsty. If only those blades were spinning!

Even on a calm day, though, this three-hour show is a don’t-miss production.

If You Go

What: “Oklahoma!” a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical


Where: Gallery Theater, Second and Ford in downtown McMinnville


When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 26


How much: Tickets are $17 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.


More information: Reservations and more information: 503-472-2227 or www.gallerytheater.org.


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