Friday, March 9, 2001
Immediately after the curtain went up on the Concord-Carlisle High School production of "Oklahoma!" this past weekendbefore any performer had even taken the stagethe audience burst into enthusiastic applause. This was a clear indication of two things: a beautifully designed set, and a great audience. And it just got better as the show unfolded. The appreciative crowd was treated to a consistently superb evening of entertainment that would rival any professional performance of this musical.
"Oklahoma!," which opened last weekend and continues with performances at the high school this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., is directed and produced by choral director Chuck Brown (his second production of a musical at CCHS) and features 25 Carlisle youths in its cast and crew of over 100 students.
Before ticket-holders even had a chance to find their seats, the fun began. The hallway outside the high school auditorium was transformed into an old-fashioned Oklahoma-style country fair, with parents and students in plaid shirts and cowboy hats hawking hot dogs and home-baked goods. There was even a kissing boothwith bags of chocolate kisses for sale.
The musical "Oklahoma!" is set in the period just prior to the territory becoming a state (which it did in 1907), and focuses on the story of smitten (but coyly stubborn) lovers Curly and Laurey, impressively portrayed in the CCHS version by juniors Danny Rooney and Katherine Horlitz. The strength of both their voices was showcased in such familiar tunes as "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'," and "People Will Say We're in Love." The secondary plot features Laurey's friend Ado Annie (the girl who "Cain't Say No!"), and her none-too-bright boyfriend Will Parker. Senior Alexandra Granato and junior Mike Lazar seemed to relish their over-the-top comedic roles and played them with gusto, to the delight of the audience. Senior Jeremy Pasha played a traveling peddler with a fleeting interest in Ado Annie, and together with Lazar, shared some memorable stage moments with his dead-on comedic timing. Rounding out the leads were junior Steve Wengrovitz as Ado Annie's crusty, shotgun-wielding father; junior Aviva Muse-Orlinoff as the feisty and lovable Aunt Eller; and sophomore Joe Whitefield-Smith, who chillingly but sympathetically portrayed Jud Fry, the dark, brooding farmhand who has fallen for Laurey.
The dancers and chorus members in "Oklahoma!" also deserve praise for their talentsespecially their ability to maintain a high degree of enthusiasm and energy throughout the show, culminating in the show-topping title song, which had audience members clapping along and primed to jump to their feet in a standing ovation.
Professional choreographer Jennifer Micarelli Webb, a Carlisle resident and a 1992 CCHS graduate, created the impressive and complicated dance numbers. Webb herself performed as a dancer and chorus member the last time CCHS presented "Oklahoma!", in 1989. "Theater at CCHS has come a long way since then," Webb said.
"The music program wasn't what it is now. What they're offering here is really turning into a performing arts program, and Chuck [Brown] is instrumental in bringing it about," she said. "It used to be that Acton-Boxboro was considered the best high school for theater in the areabut more and more, people are recognizing that Concord-Carlisle is the school to watch. Things are starting to turn around."
Seated in the audience on Saturday night were several other CCHS alumni who had appeared in the 1989 production of "Oklahoma!" They had returned to attend the evening's performance to honor principal Elaine DiCicco, who will be leaving CCHS at the end of the year.
"This was so great," said Linda Shaughnessy, who had played Gertie, (a character with a raucously annoying laugh), and is impressed to see how the theater program has grown over the past 12 years. Back then, she recalled, the director did everythingfrom choreography to leading the orchestra. "What a huge difference there is [from 1989 to 2001], especially in terms of parental involvement."
As for students currently in the theater program with Mr. Brown, it's clear that they recognize their participation in something special.
"I'm enjoying everything about this," said senior Lindsay Smith of Carlisle, who plays the role of Laurey's friend, Virginia. "It is great to be a part of something so exciting. The director is incredible, and everyone in the cast, crew and pit has become like family. I'm learning a lot, and I'm having an amazing time."
Carlisle students involved in the CCHS presentation of "Oklahoma!" include:
Dance Corps: Jeremy Till, Christina Borella, Christina Fiorentino, Elizabeth Rolando, and Ashley Bennett. Chorus: Nikki Armistead, Evelyn Caruso, Kristin Kilfoyle, Irene Schmidt, Valerie Schmidt, Lindsay Smith. Pit orchestra: Jennifer Levine, Jennifer Morse, Sean Carroll-Cronin, Jessie Nock, Brian Abend, Nora Carr, and Stephen Yu. Tech and Crew: Jon Owen, Dante Falcone, Melissa Hinton, Sydney Holleman, Rory McCarroll, Megan Roberts, and Cait Phillips.
Tickets for this weekend's performances of "Oklahoma!" are $10 each for general admission and can be purchased at Daisy's Market in Carlisle, The Toy Shop of Concord, The Harness Shop, The Concord Cheese Shop, Video Revolution, the West Concord 5 & 10, or by calling 318-1417, ext. 151. Tickets are limited, so it is recommended they be purchased in advance.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito