By Janee Law
John W. Engeman Theater’s “Oklahoma!” delivered a strong cast, catchy tap dancing, beautiful melodies and fits of both comedy and drama that kept the audience laughing and singing along Thursday night in Northport Village.
Audience member Abbey Slawitsky, of Central Islip, said loved both the cast and set designs.
She added, “I loved the costumes and I thought the orchestra was really great too. A lot of people don’t even notice that.”
“Oklahoma!” set the standard for all future musicals by incorporating music, lyrics and dance numbers into a well-crafted story. It follows two sets of love triangles amid a high-spirited rivalry between local farmers and cowboys in the Indian territory of Oklahoma.
Engeman’s production is produced by Richard T. Dolce, producing artistic director; directed by Igor Goldin; and choreographed by Drew Humphrey.
The cast is led by Bryant Martin (as Curly), Kaitlyn Davidson (as Laurey) and Nathaniel Hackmann (as Jud Fry). Supporting cast members include Jane Blass (as Aunt Eller), Chris Brand (as Will Parker), Brianne Kennedy (as Ado Annie Carnes) and Danny Gardner (as Ali Hakim).
Blass delivers authenticity to the story, while Hackmann delivers intense drama, and Gardner never fails to draw laughs whenever he’s onstage.
The intense love triangle between the three lead characters, Curly, Laurey and Jud, continues to grow throughout the production. However it’s balanced out by another, comedic love triangle between Will Parker, Ado Annie Carnes and Ali Hakim.
One of the most memorable scenes in the production is “Out of My Dreams-Ballet.” The cast takes audience members on a journey through Laurey’s subconscious that’s topped off with an intense, romantic dance number.
Although this isn’t his first “Oklahoma!” production, Brand said this is his first time playing a lead role in the play. He added that Engeman’s “Kansas City” number, which delivers a high-energy tap dancing, is his favorite to perform.
“I always love singing ‘Oklahoma,’ but this is maybe my favorite ‘Kansas City’ that I’ve seen or heard,” he said. “The guys are great dancers, the choreography is really great and it tells the story clearly. It’s just fun to feel something come together organically.”
When putting the play together, Brand said, the creative team was focused on “telling an honest, real and entertaining story to make these characters relatable and real people.”
“That’s been a really good experience,” he added.
“Oklahoma!” is showing Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets ($71-$76) are available at the 250 Main St. box office or Engemantheater.com.