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For the cast of Drama Dock's ‘Oklahoma,’ the show goes on
A group of intrepid Island thespians is in final rehearsals for one of the biggest musicals to be staged on Vashon in several years — a production that has seen more than its fair share of heartache and backstage drama.
When the curtain rises on Drama Dock’s production of “Oklahoma” next week, it will come after an arduous rehearsal process that has included the departure of the show’s director, Elizabeth Anthony, who suffered a fall on June 11 and was replaced by Drama Dock stalwart Phil Dunn.
Anthony is still recuperating from the fall — the cause of which hasn’t been fully determined — but the cast and crew of the show have soldiered on without her.
And according to Dunn, who is also cast in one of the show’s leading comic roles, the finished production will still be a product of Anthony’s vision and hard work.
“I still consider it her play,” Dunn said in a recent phone interview, for which he carved out time despite his busy schedule of rehearsing “Oklahoma,” helping to build its set, and also playing a major role yet another play — Vashon Park District’s upcoming Theater in the Park production of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
“I really respect Libbie’s work and the team she has created,” Dunn added. “I’m just filling in.”
“Oklahoma,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that ushered in a golden age of musical theater when it opened on Broadway in 1943, is a heavy lift for any community theater group. The show demands that its large cast be able to skillfully sing some of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most celebrated songs, as well carry off several difficult dance numbers, including a lengthy ballet set in the middle of the show.
But according to Drama Dock board president and “Oklahoma” stage manager Jim Roy, rehearsals have been going well, despite the void left by Anthony’s absense.
“Phil is a genuinely great director, and he is really streamlining the show and doing great things,” he said.
Roy is also enthused about the show’s cast.
David Katz, 19, is playing the role of Curly McLain, a charismatic cowboy who sings the classic songs “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”
Katz, who just finished his freshman year studying musical theater at Cornish College of the Arts, has delighted Island audiences in the past with performances in musicals including “Honk,” “Cinderella,” and “Urinetown.” Now, he said, he is especially happy to be playing the part of Curly.
“I had wanted to do that role for such a long time,” Katz said, adding that the complexities of the character have kept him on his toes throughout the rehearsal process. “He’s a brave yet jealous and unsure guy — it’s hard to know everything about him.”
The leading actress in the show, 17-year-old Zoey Rice, said she is also having a good time doing the show, playing the role of Curly’s love interest, Laurey Williams.
“This is the biggest part I’ve ever gotten,” Rice said, who said that her goal was to make her character “as strong as Curly.”
Other featured actors in the show include Dunn as Ali Hakim, a Persian peddler with a wandering eye for the ladies; Kristina Turner as Aunt Eller, Laurey’s unflappable guardian; Randy Marinez as Jud Fry, a psychotic hired hand; David Hackett as Will Parker, a cocksure cowboy; Lissy Nichols as Ado Annie, Parker’s promiscuous girlfriend; and Kirk Beeler as Andrew Carnes, Ado Annie’s gun-toting father.
A troupe of ballerinas from Blue Heron Dance will also appear in the show, tackling the challenging ballet sequence that was choreographed on Broadway by Agnes de Mille. For the Vashon production, Kathy Bonner has assumed the duties of choreographer.
The show’s musical director is Marita Ericksen, who has taken on the daunting task of managing the show’s two orchestras — one behind the curtain and the other onstage — and also working with the cast on all the show’s songs.
“When I first saw the song ‘Oklahoma’ in eight-part harmony, I thought, ‘Uh-oh,’ but the cast has really risen to the challenge,” Ericksen said. “The vocals are going great — I’m really pleased.”
Ericksen said she has known Elizabeth Anthony for 21 years, and worked with her on a number of shows, including “Annie,” “Oliver,” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Libbie is a genius — she has been an amazing director,” Ericksen said. “She’s terribly missed, but we’re all resilient and regrouping. Phil is doing an amazing job carrying on.”
The show, opening on July 8, will be dedicated to Anthony.
“Oklahoma” will be performed Thursdays through Sundays, July 8 to 18, at the Vashon High School theater. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 10, and 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 18. Ticket prices for Thursday evening performances are $10 and $5; tickets to all other performances are $15 and $10. Buy tickets at Books by the Way, Vashon Bookshop and www.brownpapertickets.com. Family and group rates are also available — send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for details.