Rehearsals take place in advance of Thursday's opening of 'Oklahoma' at Neenah's Riverside Park.
What: Riverside Players' Theatre in the Park presents the musical "Oklahoma!"
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and July 31 through Aug. 3, and 7 p.m. July 28 and Aug. 4
Where: Pavilion at Riverside Park, 500 E. Wisconsin Ave., Neenah
Admission: $13 adults, $10 students and senior citizens. Tickets are available in advance online at www.ci.neenah.wi.us/departments/parks-and-recreation/riverside-players and in person at the Neenah Parks & Recreation Department, 221 Walnut St., Neenah. They're also available at the door. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.
Box office hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Neenah Parks & Recreation Department and two hours before each performance at Riverside Park
Background: The classic musical follows the courtship of young people in Oklahoma Territory in 1906. Things get complicated when farmhand Jud Fry and cowboy Curly McLain both try to romance Laurey Williams.
What they're saying: Director Sofia Lindgren Galloway of Neenah said the musical paved the way for modern musical theater.
"When it premiered in 1943, it was the first show that successfully integrated spoken text, choreography and music to tell one cohesive story," she said. "This is a show for all ages with elements of darkness and distress countered with funny sweetness. I love this show because it gets stuck in your head, it gets inside of you and makes you appreciate the little things in life. It is truly a slice of American life."
Show numbers include "I Cain't Say No," "Oh What A Beautiful Morning," "Oklahoma" and "Dream Ballet."
Doug Komandt, who plays Will Parker, one half of another would-be Oklahoma Territory couple, said staging the show in an outdoor theater setting adds a new twist to the experience.
"This is my first time acting on a stage such as this, and it provides a very different dynamic of audience interaction and involvement since the stage allows actors to be so close to the audience members," said Komandt, of Murrysville, Pa., who is living in Menasha for 8 months while he completes an engineering co-op with Kimberly-Clark Corp.
Take-home message: "I love the song 'The Farmer and the Cowman,' which opens the second act, for the following lyrics: 'The cowman ropes a cow with ease, the farmer steals his butter and cheese, but that's no reason why they can't be friends," Galloway said. "I think that sums up the show nicely. There are a lot of interesting and often difficult characters in this show that must learn to interact with one another. Isn't that what we do every day?"
-Compiled by Kara Patterson, Post-Crescent Media: 920-993-1000, ext. 215, or email@example.com; on Twitter @ArtsMinded