O-K-L-A. . .T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C

Leads shine, ensemble great

By Jim Nowlan
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Quin Breese (Curly), Sarah Pike (Laurey), Miranda Bressler (Ado Annie) and Matthew Roark (Will Parker) gave grand renditions of the rich melodies from “Oklahoma” that cascaded over delighted audiences this past week in the Glenn Buchert Memorial Gymnasium of Stark County High School.

Worthy of equal billing with the leads, the 28 members of the ensemble provided both rich vocal accompaniment and colorful, rousing dance performances, all part of a terrific overall performance of one of the great American musicals. Rodgers and Hammerstein would be smiling.

Quin almost took the roof off the gym as he burst on the stage late in the show to boom out the signature song of the musical, with Sarah and the ensemble joining in to combine in a really stirring, crowd-pleasing “Oklahoma.”

Sarah Pike was neatly cast as the darling girl, just coming of age, uncertain of her feelings about boys. Sarah has a beaming soprano voice, which complemented perfectly the strong tenor-baritone of Quin Breese.

The duo seemed to enjoy singing “People Will Say We’re in Love” as much as the Sunday audience appreciated their confident delivery.

Miranda Bressler played the terminally cute, flirtatious Ado Annie as if she owned the role. Her soft yet clear soprano projected “I Can’t Say No” in a delightful fashion, bringing a smile to my face.

Matthew Roark strutted his stuff as the slightly befuddled cowboy who finally wins Ado Annie’s hand. But not before he sings smartly that “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City” and joins the pert Miranda to proclaim their relationship will be “All or Nuthin’.”

Those in several character roles also stood out. As Aunt Eller, Mallery Pearson tried her best—and did it well—to keep the “young’uns” under control throughout.

Trevor Shimmin played the peddler whom tough-talking Jacob Reay (as “Pa” Carnes) tried to cajole, with a gun no less, into marrying daughter Ado Annie. Trevor resisted with just the right droll wit necessary to keep his wits about him, and out of her clutches.

Quin Breese (Curley) sings to Sarah Pike (Laurey) while Mallery Pearson (Aunt Eller) listens in the back.

Makayla Morales played the loud-mouth farm girl Gertie Cummings with gusto, eventually tying up with Trevor the peddler.

Christopher Roark stepped forward with both firm intentions and capable voice to bring “The Farmer and the Cowman” together.

Dane Williams, with a startling bass voice, served effectively as the sinister, troubled farmhand Jud Fry, who would seemingly stop at nothing to win Laurey’s hand.

Alayna Steward, Faith Elsasser, and Maggie Rouse provided clever, nicely done dancing cameo features within larger dance numbers.

In supporting roles, Christopher Roark, Drake Johnston, Ryan Stahl, Mark Painter, Timo Schmitz and Joshua Kraklow looked and played their parts well as early 20th Century Oklahoma country boys.

Jacob Reay (Mr. Carnes) holds court after the Jud Fry fell on his knife, in the 2018 Stark County High School musical, “Oklahoma!”

Pit orchestra and off-stage crew deserve big hand as well

Angie Roark and Thomas McElwee are to be credited with once again directing a truly fine musical. Thomas is leaving at the end of the year for a new teaching post in Pontiac, Illinois, and he will be sorely missed at Stark County High School.

In the program, I counted about 50 students and community members who were critical to bringing off this successful musical, which was three months of work in the making.

The fast-paced and exuberant dance numbers were choreographed by Michelle Loeffler, and art teacher Lisa Jacobs played a big role in the colorful art of the sets.
The Stark County Fine Arts Network provided funding to bring Michelle and her professional dance expertise to the musical.

Brenda Mackie directed a 10-piece pit orchestra that supported the music onstage well. Talented pianist Tina Forlines had a key role throughout rehearsals and as a leader within the fine pit orchestra.

Rachael Adair and Patrick Crowley were student director and stage manager, respectively.

The two were supported by old hands Jason Musselman and Jim Roark on sound plus many others who pitched in on costumes, makeup and hair, props, set construction and lobby decorations and more.
Great job all!

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