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  • Writer's pictureEilish C.

Should Oklahoma Continue to Tour?

Oklahoma! - Shea's Performing Arts Center - February 15, 2022 7:30pm

Well. The touring revival production of Oklahoma, currently playing at Shea's Performing Arts Center, based on the 2019 Broadway revival, is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. And it seems like it's not for a lot of the typical Shea's patrons. I can understand their frustrations, but I also appreciate what this production specifically is trying to do. Unfortunately, I don't think a lot of audience members want to understand the production or be shown that they love a flawed piece of work and are uncomfortable with the flaws being pointed out.

If you've read my previous post on my thoughts of the Broadway production, a lot of the sentiment remains the same. The performers did a great job in the roles they were directed to play, the updated orchestrations really added to the depth of the show, and the lighting and sound design were phenomenal. And I appreciate how diverse the cast is, not just in color but in body type and gender expression. I actually preferred certain parts of the show not being in the round (when you are supposed to feel uncomfortable, it's easier to have that separation from the action), but I do think it wasn't as inclusive, especially for the first part of Act 1 when you are supposed to feel included in the action. The staging moving from the round to proscenium felt like more of a concert presentation and loses the fun interactions having the actors so near the audience, without explaining why it was presented in such a way.

But there are such issues with the book (which is word for word the exact same dialogue as the original production) and message of the show, which this production chooses to highlight and shows how flawed the characters are and how dark this story really is. By choosing a few scenes to play out in complete darkness, it forces the audience to only be able to listen to the dialogue, and recognize how awful the message actually is. And so many people just want to see the classic show they love and remember without recognizing the issues in this show. So unfortunately, while this production is trying to present a certain version of the show and I appreciate what they are trying to do, so many others do not want to be presented a thoughtful and exposing production. They just want to clap along to a pretty song.

I really wonder why the decision was made to take the Broadway production on tour. Without being in the round, it doesn't translate as well. And it is not the feel-good show that some people are expecting, which especially in the current post-COVID age, is not what most patrons are looking for when going out to a night at the theater. While I enjoyed the show artistically and for the individual performances, overall it's not a show that I would want to see again and again. And once more, the dream ballet (while well performed) felt out of place and jarring without adding anything to the production. So I'd be ok if we stopped reviving this show, and I'd really be ok if we stopped touring this show too.


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