In an educational era where the FCAT test preparation monopolizes the entire school year and arts programs have often been sacrificed, The Summer Musical Theatre Project collaboration between the King Center for the Performing Arts, Brevard Community College and The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse is a valuable asset to Florida Space Coast’s youth and young adult community.
The Summer Musical Theatre Project’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!" highlights the impressive skills of the Space Coast’s young actors. If you enjoy seeing young people shine on stage, this show is for you!
For four weeks, the King Center for the Performing Arts, Brevard Community College and The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse offered theater workshops to area high school and college age actors which culminated in the July 13-15 production of "Oklahoma!" at the King Center. The youngest youth in the production is just beginning his second year of high school while the oldest in entering his first year of college.
Anastacia Hawkins-Smith, Director of The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse, oversees the project because she believes it has enormous benefit to the community.
"The Summer Musical Theatre Project benefits the youth performers by providing life management skills, college and audition preparation in addition to dance, voice, acting and the process of producing as in the case of ’Oklahoma!’ The Summer Musical Theatre Project additionally deepens and develops young people’s appreciation for the arts. It also gives them undivided attention from the artistic team, to help build their confidence, skills and a feeling of acceptance, self-worth and accomplishment," said Hawkins-Smith.
"Oklahoma!", which incredibly earned a Tony Award, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer in its heydey, is set in Oklahoma Territory before it has gained statehood. It is the very early 1900’s and a cowboy named Curley McLain has fallen for a farm girl named Laurey Williams. Unfortunately, Laurey likes to play hard-to-get and sometimes plays too hard, which jeopardizes their potential romance.
As Curley tries to woo Laurey, another cowboy named Will Parker tries to win the hand of his ever-flirting fiancée, Ado Annie. Ado Annie’s father Alexander Carnes has promised Will her hand in marriage -- if Will can bring him $50 cash! Will’s biggest challenge isn’t earning the $50 though, it is the fact that Ado Annie has yet to meet a man she didn’t like and hasn’t kissed. When she falls for a traveling salesman named Ali Hakim, hilarious trouble ensues between Mr. Carnes, Ali Hakim and cowboy Will.
The play takes a serious turn when Laurey Williams tries to make Curley jealous by flirting with a dangerous hired hand named Jud Fry. Jud is tired of lot in life and begins to make plans to take Laurey for himself at any cost including murder.
For the most part, the show is filled with silliness, over the top country accents, memorable songs and more dancing than a hoedown.
Michaela Vines portrayal of Laurey Williams proved without a doubt that she is one of the brightest young talents on the Space Coast. She has it all: movie star good looks, command of the stage and a singing voice that is crystal clear on even the most challenging notes.
For me, Hayley Vervalin stole the show with her hilarious portrayal of the flirt Ado Annie. If Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton had a baby, Vervalin’s Ado Annie would be her! Each time Vervalin came on stage, the audience around me leaned forward in anticipation of her charismatic and comedic interpretation of Annie’s misadventures. Not only does Vervalin have impressive comedy skills and natural beauty, but also her vocals are exquisite.
John Dudley’s portrayal of Ado Annie’s traveling salesman love interest Ali Hakim was another comedic highlight of the show. From the first moment Dudley came on stage, I was reminded of a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is that talented. His choice of an over the top accent that falls somewhere between that of Mel Brooks and Grouch Marx is perfect for his many look at the audience and wink one-liners.
Tyreen Green showed much potential as the anguished and angry Jud Fry. Lawrence M. Mazza’s lanky body and curly hair were put to good use as cowboy Curley McClain and Evan Jones portrayal of the Ado Annie chasing Will Parker was exceptional.
"Oklahoma!" runs through July 15 at the King Center for the Performing Arts at Brevard Community College, 3865 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne, FL 32935. For info or tickets call 321-242-2219 or visit http://www.kingcenter.com