Stepping aside from its usual diet of Puccini, Ravel and Mozart, Lamont Opera takes a bite of golden-age musical theater with its new production of “Oklahoma!,” running Oct. 31 through Nov. 3 in Gates Concert Hall at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s a very pivotal piece of musical-theater history,” says George Arvidson, a senior vocal performance major who is one of two actors double-cast in the lead role of Curly. “Whenever you take a theater class or musical theater class, you always do a lot of work on ‘Oklahoma!’ And I’ve seen it numerous times, plus the movie.”
But this is Lamont Opera, so expect an operatic spin on the 1943 classic — Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration — that gave us songs such as “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”
“This production does feel a lot more like an opera,” Arvidson says. “As a program, we put on great operas every year, and almost all the people in this specific production are classical voice majors. It just has the feeling of being a little more vocally based, which is nice because it sounds good. But it’s definitely different from a lot of the musical theater experiences I’ve had in the past.”
Arvidson is a musical theater veteran, but many other voice majors are not — which makes doing a musical like “Oklahoma!” even more important, from a career perspective, Arvidson says.
“As a classical voice major, you’re not going to go into the world at 22 and start singing opera, usually,” he says. “There’s usually a good amount of time that you have to develop. So having experience in musicals is really important, and knowing how the process works, because you’re going to have to know how to do a good deal of golden-age musicals whether you want to or not. So it’s good that we’re having that preparation in this program. I think it’s good for people to have experience saying lines and feeling pacing on stage where there’s not music underneath you.”
Thomas Kittle, a graduate student also cast as Curly, is one of those voice students without any musical theater experience. But he says he’s having the time of his life doing “Oklahoma!”
“I’m not super well-versed in doing lines, but it’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “I really enjoy the way that we’re doing this production, specifically, because I think it’s really accessible. I think what DU is really good at is doing accessible shows that are generally very good for both the students and the audience. Students learn things while they’re doing these shows in a way that the audience can see. It’s really fulfilling for both sides, and I think this show is going to be incredibly well done.”
For tickets to “Oklahoma!,” visit the Lamont School of Music ticketing page, call 303-871-7720, or stop by the box office in the Newman Center.