Oh What A Beautiful Show! O’Connell & Company presents Oklahoma!

THE BASICS: Oklahoma! performed by O’Connell & Company at 4110 Bailey Avenue, Amherst 14226. For tickets — or 716-848-0800 or The production runs from May 3 – 19.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first collaboration remains, in many ways, their most innovative, setting the standards and rules of modern musical theatre. In a Western territory just after the turn of the 20th century, a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys provides a colorful background for Curly, a charming cowboy, and Laurey, a feisty farm girl, to play out their love story. Their romantic journey, as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road, contrasts with the comic exploits of brazen Ado Annie and hapless Will Parker in a musical adventure embracing hope, determination and the promise of a new land.

RUNTIME: just under 3 hours, including intermission


Both Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had flourishing careers in musical theatre prior to Oklahoma!, but this collaboration put them at the top tier of Broadway theatre and their subsequent shows included South Pacific, King and I, Carousel, and Sound of Music. This show is musical theatre gold! And this production has been skillfully directed with Joey Bucheker (director/choreographer) and Joe Isgar (musical direction) at the helm.

Scenic design by Bill Baldwin works well, and I especially liked the sunflower strewn traveler curtain. Jay Marks’ lighting was also fine and helped evoke the different moods effectively. And the costumes by Timmy Goodman are quite good – my favorite pieces were Laurey’s overalls, the peddler’s magenta suit, Aunt Eller’s quirky get ups, and the host of attractive dresses for the women in the chorus. Each lady in the ensemble had at least three lovely turn of the century head-to-toe outfits.

Merrick Allen, as the male lead, is a strong baritone with a pleasant demeanor and he gets the evening off to a great start with Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Ashleigh Chrisena Ricci plays opposite Mr. Allen and she is a standout with her crystal clear soprano. Ms. Ricci gives the role plenty of verve (this is a Laurey with backbone!), and she even dances her own dream ballet!

In supporting roles, Michael Wells plays Jud Fry with a new slant on the character. This Jud is not a grubby untouchable. Instead, he is a very odd fellow who has a disturbing sense of humor and violent tendencies. Mr. Wells’ solo, Lonely Room, was chilling and a high point of the evening. Pamela Rose Mangus as Aunt Eller is solid as a rock and absolutely marvelous -earthy, hardy, no-nonsense, in command, and chock full of love.

On the comedy front,Vincent Murphy is sweet and simple and gets all his laughs as Will Parker, and he does a great job with Kansas City. As his intended, Colleen Pine is a lively Ado Annie with the biggest smile and brightest eyes in the company when they all sing the title song. The peddler’s (L. Steven Maisonet) Persian goodbyes are real humdingers!  And Sam Crystal, as the annoying Gertie Cummings, lights up the stage in this small role, and her fight scene with Ado Annie is adorable.

Special kudos go to director/choreographer Joey Bucheker because all the dance music (and there is lot of it) has been included in this production and it was choreographed compellingly. There are occasional Agnes De Mille (the choreographer of the Broadway production and the film) references – and honoring her landmark contributions to this show is appropriate. But there are also plenty of original touches by Mr. Bucheker including his signature use of circle dancing. And it was refreshing seeing Ado Annie, Will Parker and even Aunt Eller make an appearance in the dream ballet. I was enchanted!

This is a lovely production. It’s musically strong with strong vocal work by the leads and the chorus and the choreography is impressive – especially the Dream Ballet. A treat!


FIVE BUFFALOS: Exceptional quality – a rare rating. Whether it’s a hilarious comedy or a touching drama, if this is your kind of show, missing out would be a mistake! 

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of exceptional quality. If the genre and content match your preferences, it’s worth seeing. 

THREE BUFFALOS: Despite minor drawbacks, it’s a solid production and a pleasant evening at the theater. Keep your expectations in check, and you’re likely to have a good time. 

TWO BUFFALOS: If you’re a self-proclaimed theatre enthusiast who simply adores attending shows, go ahead and give it a try. However, if the genre and themes don’t resonate with you, you might want to explore other options. 

ONE BUFFALO: This might not be the best choice for everyone unless you have a compelling reason to attend, like having family or friends involved in the performance. It’s probably a good idea to skip this one.

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