Friday, July 20, 2012

OKLAHOMA! (Florida Teens Recreate a Broadway Classic)

Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts
Melbourne, Florida
July 13-15, 2012


Simply put,  I'm passionate about  the arts particularly theater and  music. I'm equally passionate about what I consider to be a true cultural treasure, The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, located in my hometown of (sunny) Melbourne, Florida. I'm also passionate about young people. In fact, for the last year, I've been involved with the youth music ministry at nearby East Coast Christian Center. So when I heard recently that The King Center was partnering with The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse to recreate one of my all-time favorite musicals, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma!  with an all-teenage cast, I became as amped as a twelve-year-old girl at a Bieber gig.

This first annual Summer Musical Theatre Project presented local aspiring actors and actresses (ages ranging from fifteen to eighteen) with an incredible opportunity  to learn the ropes by working with experienced professionals in a theatrical environment and ultimately deliver a Broadway-worthy production to the legendary King Center stage. I've personally experienced numerous theatre productions over the years from coast to coast, and these talented young people proved to be consumate professionals. 

Lawrence M. Mazza II delivered a spot-on performance as the dashing Curly McClain. Mazza's diction and enunciation alone were clear indicators that this young actor has been well-trained and certainly has done his homework  proving to be an engaging leading man.

With a girl-next-door charm and believability, Michaela Vine offered an equally compelling performance in the female lead role of Laurey Williams. Seemingly possessing the instincts of an experienced veteran, Vine's  acting chops are matched only by her incredible singing and dancing skills.

Mazza and Vine had great chemistry and as a result, the pairing made such duets as "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top" come across as honest, pure and a heck of a lot of fun.

Secondary love interests Hayley VerValin as the boy-crazy Ado Annie Carnes and Evan Jones as her would-be fiance Will Parker truly shined as well  both giving fabulous "lead-caliber" performances. VerValin's comedic timing and delivery are impeccable.

Claudia Camp (L) as Aunt Eller and Alexander Edwards (R)
as Andrew Carnes, surrounded by Oklahoma! supporting cast.
(Photo courtesy of The King Center)
Mega kudos are in order for Claudia Camp as the spunky Aunt Eller, John Dudley as the Persian "ladies man," peddler Ali Hakim, Tyreek Greene as obsessive hired hand Jud Fry and Alexander Edwards as Annie's over-protective father Andrew Carnes.

However, it was the animated, high-energy performance of Jonathon Adler as Ike Skidmore that stood out for me as the show's most memorable. Knock, knock. Who's there? It's Broadway, looking for Jonathon Adler! (Get to New York FAST, kid.)

Hey, what's a musical without music? Pretty darn lame (and quiet) if you ask me. And it's difficult to sum up in a few words just how much I enjoyed the absolutely outstanding performance by Conductor J. Thomas Black Jr. and his fabulous twenty-piece orchestra  well-done indeed.

BTW, the original dances created by Agnes de Mille were epic and I'd also like to present special "gold stars" to King Center house engineers, Richard Tater and Jimmy Cox.

Finally, congratulations to Executive Producer Steve Janicki, Director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith, Associate Director Pamela Larson, Theatre for Youth Program Director Karen Wilson, Marketing Director Nance Burroughs and what seems to be a staff of nearly one hundred other hard-working professionals on a simply fabulous job. I'm already psyched for next year!

-Christopher Long
(July 2012)

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