NEGAUNEE - Last year the Negaunee High School restarted its tradition of musical theater after 40 years with gangsters and showgirls in "Guys and Dolls." This year the school's auditorium stage will be filled with cowboys and farmers with the classic musical "Oklahoma."
"If you can't be a gangster, be a cowboy," said Director Connie Lindblom. "It's a nice story and beautiful music."
Written by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, "Oklahoma" is a classic musical that follows the lives of the cowboy Curly, the beautiful Laurie and other Old West characters living in the Oklahoma Territory. With songs like "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," audiences will find themselves rediscovering the familiar favorite, which was the final production the high school hosted in the 1960s, Lindblom said.
The Negaunee High School cast of Oklahoma
rehearses a large dance scene. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Students at the Negaunee High School are ready to take you away to the place where corn grows “as high as an elephant’s eye” in their production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma,” which opens Thursday. Here Ricky Peterson, 16, playing the part of Curly, and Sarah Paquette, 17, playing the part of Laurie, rehearse a scene. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
This year's show draws on both returning cast members from "Guys and Dolls" and newcomers to the stage.
"This is the first actual performance I'm doing," said junior Brady Skewis, 17, who plays the lasso-toting cowboy Will Parker. "'Guys and Dolls' was really cool. I really wish I had been in that one."
Skewis is joined by fellow newcomer junior Sarah Paquette, 17, who plays the female lead of Laurie Williams.
"My mom (Marcia Paquette) is playing the piano (in the orchestra) and it's cool that I get to do that with her," she said.
Also on stage will be Negaunee theater veterans sophomore Ricky Peterson, 16, playing the role of Curly, and junior Ben Bickler, 16, playing the villainous farm hand Judd Fry.
"I like my entire part," Bickler said. "I get to be angry. I'm very hot headed. I get to be someone I'm totally not in real life."
For Peterson, the production this year is coming together well.
"It feels like it was meant to be," he said.
One of the standout parts of this year's production, however, are the sets, which were designed and built by Vic Holiday of the Northern Michigan University theater department.
"We're going to be a step up from last year's sets," Peterson said.
Another part of the show to look out for is the roping, which members of the cast had to learn for their parts, particularly Skewis.
"I hit myself in the face a couple times," he said. "It's pretty cool how many things I've learned to do from this."
From the large ensemble dances to the costumes - including pantaloons made for the female cast members - the production will include something for the entire family. The cast includes 50 students, with 20 student musicians making up the pit orchestra and another 10 putting in work behind the scenes.
The production opens at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, with additional shows on Friday and Saturday at the Negaunee High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, available in advance from Midtown Bakery and Cafe or at the door prior to each show.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.