SBHS production of ‘Oklahoma!’ to open Thursday

San Benito High is putting on the show Oklahoma. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

For Cam Burchard, who plays the lead in San Benito High School’s “Oklahoma!” opening Thursday, taking the stage will mean donning a special straw hat.
Burchard’s older brother, Jared, played the same role of Curly McLain, when he was in middle school. Ever since then, Burchard, now 17, wanted the role and will wear his brother’s straw hat in the production.
“So Curly is like the essential character in the show,” he said. “He’s in love but he doesn’t want to tell himself he’s in love.”
Actually, it is not just Curly’s story but that of his love interest Laurey Williams, his creepy rival, Jud Fry and a second trio of lovebirds—Cowboy Will Parker, his girlfriend the flirtatious Ado Annie, and her lover the Persian Peddler Ali Hakim—whose lives play out on a stage with a yellow barn and wood fences below red, velvet curtains.
“Oklahoma!”, recognized with a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 1944, is also famous among musical appreciators as the first collaboration between Composer Richard Rodgers and Lyricist Oscar Hammerstein. They went on to create singing scores for “Cinderella,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific,” among others.
The high school’s after-school dress rehearsal for “Oklahoma!” last week was a “speed through,” meaning actors recited their lines quickly without proper accents or much acting, in an effort to get through the whole play. Curly, played by Burchard, was immediately on stage with Aunt Eller, asking for advice when his love interest, Laurey, entered singing the musical’s classic song, “Oh, what a beautiful mornin.’ ”
Also in the cast was San Benito High School junior Nate Everett, 16, who played Jud Fry, and wore a stained, long-sleeve shirt during the dress rehearsal.
“He’s a little creepy,” Everett said of his character. “He tries to hit on Laurey but gets rejected.”
But Jud is also a more complicated character. He is hard working, alone and misunderstood, Everett said. The actor likes playing the role because it is so different from him.
“In real life, I’m a really happy and cheery person, but he’s really dark,” Everett said. “I kind of like the switch of personalities, I guess.”
The high school students don’t have to be the lead in the show to dance and sing to the music. Sophomore Phoebe Patterson, 16, was a member of the ensemble.
“I think I like the era of it, especially the costumes, the funny way people talk,” she said.
Patterson has no lines but she does mummer in a few scenes and stays in character during those moments by speaking in a way that was typical of the times.
“I try the accent,” Patterson said.
The actress sings in almost all of the songs, but especially enjoys “Out of my dreams,” “People will say we’re in love” and “Oklahoma!”, she said. Patterson and others in the cast have been rehearsing the show since January, with after-school meetings increasing in frequency as showtime gets closer, she explained.
For Patterson, summarizing the plot means focusing on its romances, or at least the love attempts. As the teenager watched scenes unfold on stage from a seat in the audience during the dress rehearsal, she created a genre to sum up the saga.
“Well, there’s love triangles. And one of them dies, so I guess it’s just kind of about life back in the day,” she said. “So, it’s a love drama.”
If you go
Who: San Benito High School students
What: will be performing “Oklahoma!” the musical
Where: at the high school’s auditorium, located at 1220 Monterey Street, Hollister
When: at 7 p.m. March 17, 18, 19, 24 and 25. Tickets are $9.
Songs you’ll know
“Oh, what a beautiful mornin’ ”
“The surrey with a fringe on top”
“People will say we’re in love”
“Oklahoma!”

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