Brigid chats with the cast of Nova’s Oklahoma

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the incredibly successful team of Richard Rodgers (composer) and Oscar Hammerstein II (composer). The musical is based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs and is set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906. Oklahoma tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie, Laurey’s friend.

The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. Oklahoma has enjoyed many award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions plus an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. Yes, a popular production indeed!

Brigid DeNeefe spoke with the shows four principal actors to get their feelings on the forthcoming production. As you will see, all are quite different but they all share an incredible enthusiasm for a boot-scooting production that we should not miss! Yee ha ! ! !

Kelly Windle – “Laurey Williams”

This is my first ever NOVA production and am I having fun? Well, Oklahoma has a great score, delightful characters and a good balanced mix of song, dance and straight theatre scenes – what’s not fun about any of that?

My character is Laurey who is a strong, independent-minded and hard-working farm-girl. She is sensitive and feminine, as well as being intelligent and bold. In today’s world she would still hold all those qualities; she just might not be in love with a cowboy! And in today’s world she would also be able to sue Jud for sexual harassment. So I guess she’d be the same . . . without as many ‘man’ troubles.

Kelly ‘s most recent roles include Tracy Lord in CLOC’s production of High Society, Cinderella in Into the Woods (Williamstown), Usherette in The Producers (Whitehorse) and she also appeared as a soloist earlier in 2010 in Now, Then and Always (Williamstown). Originally trained in musical theatre at the National Theatre, she has also worked in both cabaret and corporate entertainment across Melbourne.

Ashley McPherson – “Curley”

I’m very lucky on this occasion to be working with a warm and non judgemental cast and production team for my first NOVA production. Not that I’ve had any negative experiences in the past or anything, but those kinds of positive vibes can really help me to relax a lot more at rehearsals.

Amateur Theatre is great and the reason why I continue to make time for it is because of the creative release and the fun which is at the centre of the whole process. If I ever start to lose sight of that element of fun particularly when waking up early on a Sunday to go to another rehearsal (Come on, we’ve all been there) – then a cheerful cast and production team can always help to put things in perspective and to remind me why I do theatre in the first place.

My character, Curly, is a bit of a larrikin. He’s a fun-loving sort of guy, but he does have a sensitive, romantic side buried in there somewhere and he also has genuine feelings for Laurey.

To put him into perspective, I guess he can be likened to the modern-day, working class man. Except in modern-day Melbourne, he’d probably drive a Ford Falcon rather than a surrey; and “Beautiful Mornings” would be few and far between . . . . (is Ashley having a ‘go’ at Melbourne’s wacky weather??)

My first performance in non musical theatre was in 2008, appearing in Cosi and Spring Awakening with Purely Pensive Productions and Dimboola with BATS. However, I quickly discovered a love for musicals and an even bigger love of playing the fool onstage. Since then, I’ve pretty much launched myself head-first into any opportunity which has leapt out at me. Oklahoma will be my fifth show in 2010, having appeared in Spamalot (PLOS); Noises Off (Catchment Players of Darebin); Kismet (Babirra) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (MUMCo).

The high-energy, comedic roles are usually the ones that I’m interested in; but I’m very pleased that I’ve been given the opportunity to try something a bit different this time around.

Ashley took up singing training in 2009 after discovering musical theatre and has managed to ‘fake’ his dancing / movement very well without any formal dance training.

Lauren Seymour – “Ado Annie”

This is my first NOVA production too! 

The role of Ado Annie is really enjoyable to play.  She has a lot of great lines so it’s always fun to experiment with delivery and movement.  Secondly, when you’re playing opposite someone like Matty there is literally never a dull moment!  More importantly, while rehearsals have been extremely productive and challenging, everyone involved has been so much fun to be around. I feel that the cast and the artistic team have really bonded, so I always look forward to coming to rehearsal – it’s never a chore!

My character is Ado Annie, the vague, slightly boy-crazy, yet loveable girl.  If she were in today’s world, there’s a chance she wouldn’t even notice!   In a contemporary world, I think a lot of Ado Annie’s attributes would remain the same.   Although at times she appears a little naive and while she does revel in new-found males’ attention, deep down all she really wants is to be loved, which I guess is what makes her character so accessible to any audience.

Lauren graduated from Melbourne University with a bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Drama and Theatre studies.  Performance highlights include the roles of Chiffon in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (SPX Waterdale Players), Yum-Yum in ‘Hot Mikado'(ARC), Jennifer Gabriel in ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ (Catchment), Cinderella in ‘Into the Woods’ (BustCo), Joanne in ‘Godspell’ (ARC), Heidi in ‘I Sing’ (OPTC), and Julia in ‘The Wedding Singer’ (BustCo).  Lauren has also performed in ‘Footloose’ (Whitehorse), ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (OSMaD) and most recently ‘Kismet’ (Barbirra). Lauren also completed 12 years of classical voice training Kate Sadler, Helen Burnham and Melbourne Youth Music at VCA.

Matt Jakowenko – “Will Parker”

This is my 6th show working with NOVA Music Theatre. I always have a great time performing with this company. It has a strong base of loyal patrons coming to the show and a great mixture of old and new productions. NOVA always has a great production team that are a lot of fun to work with. NOVA is always great at giving performers the opportunity to play supporting and lead roles where you sometimes might not with other companies. 

We all know that rehearsing can be hard work, but maintaining a certain element of “fun” is always important – how have you been keeping the positives at the forefront? It helps when you have a great fun cast and production team that can have a great laugh, muck around but then be able to switch right back into performance mode and concentrate on the job at hand. There is a time and place at rehearsals when you focus and a time to play. I personally take responsibility for the many laughs during rehearsals (all of which cannot be mentioned here).

Oklahoma is famous for being about country bumpkins, country kin and country folk – Who is your character and what do you think he/she would be like in today’s world?

 My Character, Will Parker, is a young basic country dreamer. He doesn’t let life faze him and his only goal is to be happy with his true love Ado Annie. He is a simple guy with big dreams and a big heart. If he was in today’s world I think he would adapt in time, like anyone would, In fact, I think most guys from that era would resemble something like Mick Dundee aka Crocodile Dundee, going from outback Australia to New York city, but I’m sure he’ll be loved.

I’ve done many lead roles now like Emcee in Cabaret etc but I started as an ensemble member and have worked my way up – challenge to challenge. It’s all stage experience. Every show you do whether you’re an ensemble member or leading role, you learn from each other and you take that experience to the next show.

Since 1999 Matt has had many lead roles with various Melbourne companies including two Music Theatre guild judge’s awards in 2006 for his performances in A Chorus Line and West Side Story. Matt also completed a Diploma of Voice at the Melba Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne.

Nova Music Theatre Presents:

Oklahoma

22 October – 7 November

For more details check out our ‘Whats On’ section

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