by kellie abrahamson
This isn’t the first time the two have teamed up for something special. In honor of the dinner theater’s 40th anniversary, the two collaborated last May to bring The Music Man to the Jacoby Symphony Hall. This was a “concert version” of the musical, meaning the JSO and the cast of 21 actors shared the stage, trimmed away some of the dialogue to shorten the play and had limited choreography due to a lack of space. The five performances were such a smashing success that the duo joined forces yet again six months later to present a fully staged production of West Side Story across the lobby in the Moran Theatre. Again, the match up proved to be a triumph, wowing fans and critics alike. EU’s own Dick Kerekes called it “a perfectly wonderful theatre experience” and hoped for “more of the same next season.”
Well, next season has come and it seems the Symphony and the Alhambra heard his call. This time around the two First Coast institutions will tackle Oklahoma!, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s very first collaboration. Fitting, no? The tale is set in 1906 and follows the romance between a cowboy named Curley and his lady love Laurey. With instantly recognizable songs like ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,’ ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top,’ ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ and of course ‘Oklahoma,’ the musical is an unforgettable snapshot of Americana and a true fan favorite.
For Oklahoma!, the exceptionally talented actors and musicians will go back to the concert format on the Jacoby Hall stage. We spoke with the show’s director, Alhambra owner Tod Booth, who gave us an idea of what to expect.
“It’s all costumes and sets,” he said. “But since we’re on stage in front of the orchestra… the sets are designed so you can see through them. They’re more or less skeletal, if you will. All the windows are skeletal, so you can see the symphony performing behind it.”
This unique format will allow audiences to experience Oklahoma! in a whole new way, and not just visually.
“On Broadway, the maximum they have is 25 people in the pit… I don’t know the exact number but we’ll probably do it with 60 musicians,” Booth explained. “The dynamics of it, the size of it, the sound of it is just so much grander than a normal Broadway show… It’s just an exciting setting to participate in.”
Recently the JSO gave Oklahoma! fans at the Florida Theatre a sneak peek at what’s in store. On July 26th the film version of the musical was screened as part of the theater’s Summer Movie Classics series. Before the show, six symphony chorus members, accompanied by the fiddle-playing of JSO Concertmaster Philip Pan, performed songs from the play. The performers were in full costume and even arrived at the Florida Theatre in an actual horse-drawn carriage. The event proved to be as much fun for the singers as it was for those who witnessed the spectacle.
“We were given the royal treatment. The ambiance was perfect and the weather was splendid,” said chorus member Dorothy Jean Bush. “And while we were singing and waving to people on our buggy ride, we were stopping traffic along the way. September will be a great time to enjoy the JSO-Alhambra production of Oklahoma! and we encourage everyone to attend.”
oh what a beautiful match up
by kellie abrahamson