The Odessa Record -

"Odessa Day" performance of Oklahoma! July 22

 


Tickets are now on sale for Wheatland Theatre Co.’s production of Oklahoma!, running July 20 through 29 in Davenport.

Tickets can be purchased at WestsideTheatre.org, by calling 866-811-4111 or at Odessa Drug. Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and $10 for students when purchased in advance. Tickets are $25 each purchased at the door. Performances will take place at the Davenport High School Auditorium (801 Seventh St).

In order to encourage attendance from Odessa-area residents, a special “Odessa Day” performance is scheduled for Sunday, July 22, at 2 p.m. Discounted tickets for this performance are just $15 each when purchased in person at Odessa Drug. This production follows December’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” which included a performance at Odessa’s Old Town Hall.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Wheatland Theatre Co. will present Roger and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! The third production of the company’s one-of-a-kind guest artist program, Oklahoma! will feature the work of a handful of professional theatre artists from around the country, working alongside and mentoring more than 30 local volunteers.

At the production’s helm is director Lee Mikeska Gardner, a director and actor with decades of experience in the Washington, D.C. and Boston areas. She currently serves as artistic director of The Nora Theatre Company in Cambridge, Mass.

After successful productions of “Almost, Maine” and the regional premiere of the musical “Big Fish,” the company knew it was time to do another well-known, classic musical, and “Oklahoma!” became the clear choice. “Every small-town community theater does ‘Oklahoma!’ but we have the resources and opportunity to reexamine with new eyes this American classic musical, 75 years after its Broadway premiere,” explained Wheatland’s managing director Drew Kowalkowski, who co-founded the nonprofit in 2008 and now returns to Davenport annually from New York City, where he manages an off-Broadway theater.

The first step was hiring Gardner to direct. “She’s not a musical theater director by trade,” according to Kowalkowski, “and that’s exactly why I wanted to hire her. It’s so easy to do a show like ‘Oklahoma!’ on auto-pilot. Lee brings a text-based, story-driven approach, helping us take a deeper look at this story and these characters that we think we already know.”

The next step was hiring a music director. The original orchestrations for the show call for an orchestra of 28 players. Rather than reduce that down for whatever musicians could be found, the company enlisted Zachariah Baker to create new orchestrations for a six-piece folk band, who will share the stage with the actors. Oklahoma! marks an Inland Northwest homecoming for Baker, a Sandpoint native who was formerly the resident music director at The Modern Theater in Spokane.

Gardner and Baker (along with choreographer Suzanne Ostersmith, director of the dance program at Gonzaga University) lead a cast of 31, two professional actors from New York and 29 local volunteers.

Ohio-native Nathan Robert Pecchia plays Curly. Pecchia is an alumnus of Wright State University’s Musical Theatre program in Dayton, Ohio. Recent regional credits include Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre (“First Date”), Short North Stage (“Spamalot!”), Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts (“Miracle on 34th St.”) and The Human Race Theatre Company (“Sweeney Todd”, American premiere of “Legendale: A New Musical”).

The role of Will Parker is played by Ellington Berg, originally from Michigan, who recently finished national tours of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical” and “Dragons Love Tacos.”

Set in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906, the musical tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the farmhand Jud Fry. The original Broadway production, which opened in 1943, became a record-breaking success, earning its writers a Pulitzer Prize and spawning a 1955 film adaptation.

“Oklahoma!” was the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodger and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The duo would go on to write “Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “The Sound of Music.”

Wheatland Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!” is supported by grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, Innovia Foundation, and US Bank Foundation. A $10,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts made Wheatland Theatre Co. one of only two Eastern Washington nonprofits (along with the Spokane Symphony) to receive funding from the federal agency last year.

Wheatland Theatre Company is a community theater company and Lincoln County’s only nonprofit producing arts organization. The company has mounted 17 productions since 2008. Drew Kowalkowski is the managing director and Karen Brewster is the artistic director. Visit WheatlandTheatre.org for more information.

 

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