Yardley Players Theatre Company Delivers Excellent OKLAHOMA

by Arlene Price Kohler

Michael as Curly McLain, Joanna Latini as Laurey Williams in Yardley Players' production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, OKLAHOMA, playing at Kelsey Theatre through July 24.

For the past ten months I have had the pleasure of going to the theater and writing reviews for STAGE Magazine.    Being quite a bit the back seat director,  this has been fun for me and whatever guest I bring along for the evening.   I have enjoyed seeing my old theater friends and once again experiencing the magic of a well done show,  hearing wonderfully performed  music and beautiful vocals. 

Such was the case this weekend when my sister-in-law, Debbie, came along with me to see Yardley Players’ production of OKLAHOMA, presented at Mercer County Community College’s  Kelsey Theatre.    We had both put in a full day’s work, hers being much harder than mine.   The plan was to meet for dinner at the Brooksomething Deli for a quick bit and on to the show.  It was closed and the pizza place had only two soggy looking cold slices, so we ended up at the local Chinese buffet.  Off to a rocky start, but the rest of the evening made up for it many times over.

Since I have worked on OKLAHOMA several  times, and have seen it performed dozens of times, I appreciate its historical contributions, (heck, its blending of song, characters, plot and dance created a model for Broadway shows for decades!), but I am a bit weary  of it and  though I do like quite a few of the songs,  I  cannot say it is one of my top picks in musical theatre.   So, this is the mindset with which I entered Kelsey Theatre.

But from the moment the  19 piece orchestra, under the direction of David Bohn sounded the notes of the terrific overture, I was convinced.    So, now if Curly came out and impressed me with “Oh What a Beautiful Morning’    I would be  a happy camper!   That is exactly what happened and I should not have been surprised, as Yardley Players Theater Company, under the direction of Marge Swider, has consistently been able to bring to the stage some amazingly talented vocalists.     A young man by the name of  Michael Niederer has been cast as Curly.  Not only does he possess  great vocals, he has  boyish  good looks and  a  charming stage  presence. Most importantly, he doesn’t just sing a song he  acts it.  By the end of the first number I had a smile on my face.   One of the best Curlys I have ever seen.    Even when  accidently (or was it?)  breaking the stove, his performance flowed very nicely.    Now  If his ego doesn’t  too big with all the praise he will garner for this performance and the ones to follow,  I predict this young man will have guite a future in Theaterland.  Stayed tuned for updates.

The songs are such an integral part of  the show and director Marge Swider has created a seamless flow from song back to action to song again throughout the  entire show.   She shows  great instincts in having her actors play it just faintly over the top,  lending a contemporary feel to an old classic and allowing the audience to really hear some of the great comedic lines.    The six main leads all  show great skills in doing just that.   More about each of them later.   I am still stuck on the music…several days later and my brain is still pumping out “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”!  

Joanna Latini plays Laurey Williams.  Her voice is simply beautiful.   She has good dance and acting skills.    I’m seeing another bright future here.

If the primary  leads weren’t so strong the show would have been stolen by  some of the secondary  leads.  Ado Annie (Kate McCabe) is absolutely adorable in this role.  She enchants   the audience with her performance of “I Cain’t Say No”.  One of her love interests is Will Parker  played by Dell Howard with the biggest smile I have ever seen and some of the best dancing skills too!  Her other love interest is Ali Hakim(Mark Swift) who the audience, as well as I, just loved.  He’s uses this terrific comedic  walk that floats him on and off and all around the stage.  Combine that with his great delivery and facial expressions and we have a winner folks!

Aunt Eller (Kathleen Kutalek) although tiny in stature, commands the stage well.   Joe Zedeny  creates a great brooding Jud and Tara Wagner’s Gertie ,  well her laugh is immensely   annoying just  as it should be.  

The staging and choreography throughout the show is innovative and  extremely well done.  I like the use of the walkway in the opening number and the adorable staging and choreography in “Many a New Day”  is outstanding.  Laura Muray is the choreographer and she does a splendid job. She also is ‘Dream Laurey’ and it is a dream to watch her dance.  She is like a little music box ballerina and a great  match in looks for Laurey.  Her ‘Dream Curly’ is Kyle Sheehan also a wonderful dancer.  I loved the transition from reality to dream and back again.   I understand that she , as well as Marge Swider and Amy Zalot, the assistant to the director put a lot of time and effort into this show.   Well, it has paid off…a job well done, Ladies.

The ensemble is large and they all really perform well together as well as separately.   Some of my favorites were Walter Smyth, who plays Cord Elam (one of the area’s best character actors) and Matt South whose enthusiastic love of theater is infectious and Jack Petzko who just seems to be having  a wonderful time and after all isn’t that what it is all about?

by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Marge Swider
July 15 – 24, 2011
Yardley Players Theatre Company
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windson, NJ 08550

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1 comment

arlene kohler July 22, 2011 - 9:25 pm

come on folks…someone must have something to add or comment on. My thanks to Patricia for her editing.


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