ONE-WAY TO ‘OKLAHOMA!’

Gresham school dancing and singing to classic musical
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Gresham Community School will be taking theater lovers south for its next musical, far enough south that they might feel the wind sweeping down the plain.

The school will bring the classic musical “Oklahoma!” to its stage next week with three shows from March 22-24.

The show is set in Oklahoma in 1906, when it was a territory and one year before it became a state. It is based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs,” written by Lynn Riggs.

However, the musical itself was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, their first, and debuted in 1943. It is the second consecutive year that Gresham has performed a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical after performing “The Sound of Music,” the final collaboration between the two.

“We wanted to try something set in America,” said director Heidi Cerveny. “This is right around the turn of the century.”

This year’s musical performance features 19 students from grades 6-12.

As with “The Sound of Music,” the school is performing an abridged version of “Oklahoma!” which will be an hour long. The abridged story, part of the Getting to Know series set up specifically for youth performers, focuses primarily on the romance between cowboy Curly McLain and farm girl Laurey Williams, although there are moments when the secondary couple, Will Parker and Ado Annie, are featured.

As the show opens, Curly desires a date with the fair Laurey, but she initially turns him down, feeling he waited too long to ask her to the box social, and accepts an invitation from Jud Fry, a lonely and disturbed farmhand. Later, confused by her feelings for Curly, she takes a “magic potion,” which is actually smelling salts, and experiences a bizarre dream that makes her realize that Curly is the man for her.

In the second act, Jud is determined to hold onto Laurey’s affections and tries to outbid all the other cowboys for the basket of food Laurey prepared for an auction to help build the local school. Curly finds a way to outbid Jud, selling his saddle, wagon and gun to win the basket — and Laurey’s heart.

The musical features more dancing than previous Gresham shows, but Cerveny said the batch of students she found for the show had some background and dancing and easily learned the moves.

“We wanted to incorporate the choreography, and it was just something different for the kids to learn,” Cerveny said. “I think it’s important for them to get exposure to a variety of different genres.”

The show has received a lot of community support as the school has made the musical an annual thing, and Cerveny said the community almost expects the musical to be done each year, no matter what. A lot of the set props have come from area residents, according to Cerveny, including the old butter churn used by Aunt Eller.

“Some of the older stuff was hard to find, but a lot of the farmers still hold on to some of that stuff,” Cerveny said. “We had some community members come in and help us paint the set on a Friday night.”

Even with the abridged version, most of the original songs are in the show, including the title song “Oklahoma!” and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” which opens the show. Cerveny noted that the songs are shortened to fit the hour show.

“The scene where they’re wanting to hang Jud is not in there,” Cerveny said. “It’s a little more kid-friendly that way.”

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: “Oklahoma!”

WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. March 24

WHERE: Gymnasium, Gresham Community School, 501 Schabow St., Gresham

TICKETS: $5, $2 ages 5 and under