The Lennox High School drama department is gearing up for a spectacular production of the timeless classic, “Oklahoma!” by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
“Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma is a classic musical and is widely known and loved in the theatre world,” said LHS drama director, Christi Sayler. “I grew up watching and listening to classic musicals like this one so when I decided that I was ready to venture into the world of Broadway style musicals, I knew this had to be my first choice.”
Sayler also revealed that her selection of “Oklahoma!” was strategically aligned with the school’s bond issue.
“If the bond failed the first time, I wanted a show that would draw in a crowd that maybe hasn’t seen what the Lennox theatre department can do and help to maybe change some minds if we went to a vote again,” said Sayler. “Thankfully the community was already behind the bond and now we get to use this fantastic musical as a thank you to the community for supporting our school and helping to fund a new addition that includes a state of the art PAC!”
One of the highlights that audiences should look forward to is the singing and dancing, which is no small feat.
“It is incredibly hard to sing and dance at the same time, and the kids are doing a fantastic job,” said Sayler.
Sayler is particular excited for the number “The Farmer and the Cowman,” where all the boys showcase their dancing skills.
Additionally, the audience will enjoy an incredible set.
“I had a fantastic group of parents give up some of their time this summer to help build one of the best sets I have ever worked with,” said Sayler. “All I can say is, just wait until you see the smoke shed where Jud Fry lives! It’s my favorite set piece ever!”
In this production, a talented cast and crew from LHS come together to breathe life into the characters. Sayler mentioned that 16 new faces have joined the cast, in addition to several returners. The lead roles include Aunt Eller (played by Lilly Sanchez), Curly (played Noah Sayler), Laurey (played by Nevaeh Voeltz), Will Parker (played Zander Hazuka), Jud Fry (played Carter Dose), Ali Hakim (played by Isaiah Sayler), and Ado Annie Carnes (played by Lizzy Rieck). Other cast members include Ike Skidmore (played by Isaak Booker), Fred (played by Riley Nelson), Slim (played by Elijah Johnson), Gertie Cummings (played by Miriam Welch), Ellen (played by Alek Kilene), Kate (played by Ariana Poppens), Sylvie (played by Charlee Jorgensen), Armina (played by Liz Hanisch), Aggie (played by Sophie Sanchez), Virginia (played by Maddigan Van Sickle), Vivian (played by Emersen Lee), Andrew Carnes (played by Madix Havard), Cord Elam (played by Skyler Plucker), Mike/Joe (played by Karson Iken), Sam (played by Duncan Johnson), and Party Girls (played by Izzy Gerdes, Kathryn Loewe, Gracie Wood, Haley Washam, Allison Schulz, and Lucy Carlson). Stage Managers include Graycee Postma and Jensen Hoefert and Stage Crew members include Olivia Dohlmann, Harper Lee, and Saliah Feather.
Auditions were fairly simple for most, Sayler said.
“Everyone was asked to sing as a group while Mr. Covey and I listened just to see how well they could blend and if they were able to pick up the music quickly that we were teaching,” Sayler added. “Then those students who were interested in a lead were asked to perform a prepared piece from any Rogers and Hammerstein show and do a reading so we could get a feel for their vocal ability and stage presence. We have a LOT of talented kids in Lennox.”
The rehearsal process began in September, with auditions, music practice, and choreography work. It was a challenging journey, as most of the young actors and actresses are involved in other activities, making it a struggle to coordinate rehearsal times.
“The kids have had to do a lot of work on their own as well, learning their lines and songs,” Sayler added.
Sayler pointed out two unique challenges in this production: learning the Oklahoma dialect and exploring romantic situations on stage.
“The book is written in the dialect so the first few times we rehearsed the kids really stumbled along because the words looked funny but once we talked about what was actually being said, they started to get a feel for the rhythm and feel of it. Like I told the kids, it isn’t a true southern accent but more of a lazy drawl. I think it has been a good learning experience for all of them and definitely helps them for possible future roles with accents,” said Sayler. “Another new challenge was exploring romantic situations on stage. Oklahoma has two love triangles happening throughout the show. I think the kids playing the roles have handled it very maturely.”
Music director, Carson Covey, helped with the music during the opening week of rehearsal and choreographer, Hannah Sayler, came from Minneapolis and spent an entire Saturday teaching the dances and as well as the fight scenes to the students. Staging the scenes were worked on in October and buy mid month the group was running full Acts, working out all the kinks before the big performance.
The cast will present “Oklahoma!” on Nov. 10-11 at 7 p.m. at the LHS cafetorium. Admission is by donation at the door.