April 12, 2023
By Rachel Scofield
Pickerington High School North senior Cooper Stotridge says the school’s sold-out production of Oklahoma! is a “Rootin’ Tootin’ tale of two different love triangles.”
Stotridge plays Curly McLain, a charismatic cowboy who goes to extreme measures to win the heart of farm girl, Laurey Williams (Colleen Healy). Laurey, however, has also caught the eye of the frightening farmhand, Jud Fry (Ryan O’Malley). The musical is set in the Indian Territory as it verges on becoming the state of Oklahoma.
The original Oklahoma! debuted in 1943 as the first collaboration of Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. The two would go on to coproduce many more successful musicals including The Sound of Music, The King and I and Carousel. In 1950, the pair won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with South Pacific.
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This latest revival is not the sunny, confection of a musical that audiences loved 80 years ago. Every character makes decisions that are either foolish, unfair or downright cruel. In this retelling, those lapses in judgement are not easy to dismiss.
“Although people don’t want to talk about the dark parts of Oklahoma!, I love it!” Stotridge said. The deaths are awesome, the ballet is great, it’s all pretty cool!”
Junior Christian Strong plays Will Parker, a cowboy trapped in his own love triangle. With the $50 he won in a roping competition, Will intends to marry Ado Annie (Kyla Welling), but Annie is chasing after the traveling peddler, Ali Hakim (Noah Thompson).
The character of Will is a departure for Strong, whom regular patrons of Panther theatre will recognize from previous musicals including Kinky Boots and Rent.
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“With my character I get to be goofy and weird, which I don’t feel is something that I’ve gotten to do yet,” Strong said, “It is really fun.”
Stotridge is a new face to North Theatre. Before Oklahoma! he had never acted in a play or sung in a chorus.
“I’ve always wanted to but never did then my friend just invited me out of the blue,” Stotridge said. “Mr. (Allen) DiCarlo said that it would be alright if I came in because they needed more boys, so I invaded the last call backs. They had already done like five auditions. I go in there and I sing a song that I learned in 10 minutes, ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’. Then, they go, ‘you’re great! Learn a different one’. I learned another Curly song, I sang it, then yeah, I got cast as the lead which is weird.”
The show will be performed on April 13-15 at 7:00 p.m. and on April 16 at 2:00 p.m. at Pickerington High School North’s Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The production is being performed “in the round”, meaning the audience is seated on the stage surrounding the actors. The effect is a much more personal, immersive experience; however, it also greatly reduces the number of seats. Every performance has sold out.
Tickets for North Theatre’s next show, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, are already on sale at the school’s online box office for $15.00. The show will be performed in the Black Box Theatre located immediately behind the PAC stage; therefore, it too will have limited seats available.
For more information about Oklahoma! and other upcoming productions, please follow Pickerington North Theatre on Facebook.
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