The cast of the 2021 Lincoln Academy/Heartwood Theater production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, which opens November 4.

“Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day! I got a beautiful feeling: everything’s going my way!”  In 1943, Rogers and Hammerstein opened their (predicted to flop) Broadway musical, ”Oklahoma”, with this buoyant opening number … and changed the history of musical theater, forever.   Lincoln Academy and Heartwood Theater are sweeping down the plains of this expansive musical and acting landscape, in their 19th annual student collaborative, opening Nov 4th.

Griff Braley, LA Teacher / Theater Director and Artistic Director of Heartwood Theater, is always on the hunt for potential projects, which can serve both LA and Heartwood, in the unusual, but mutually beneficial collaboration between these two entities. 

In the fall of 2019, Braley attended the 2019 Broadway Revival of Oklahoma, at NY’s Circle in the Square Theatre.  What appealed to him was not the promise of traditional musical numbers, but Director Daniel Fish’s fresh look at the actual words and storyline of this production, with notably darker – and realistic – undertones.  Set in an intimate, immersive style, Braley already knew this could be suitable for performance in the Poe Theater, at LA.  

Braley found the production surprisingly gripping, a bit jolting and though provoking, steering away from stereotypes, digging deeply into the dramatic realities and arc of each character.  Beyond the show stopping musical numbers, there is history, humanity and searching questions, and that’s a perfect stage for Braley’s work with students and audiences.

Stepping away from the historically large, somewhat fluffy production style gives the student cast/crew of 30 room to innovate, explore and connect with the audience in ways that may prove unexpected.  Oklahoma challenges and develops students vocally and with movement, but also with the rigors of honest character development and scene work.  It’s a production not without risks; truthful, believable acting requires giving, being present and available, and digging into this script reveals assumptions and prejudices.  In a rehearsal at the end of a school day, this is asking a lot of teenagers.  For the most part, it’s just where they want to be, and they are thriving thru the process.

Audiences can expect high excitement, music, dance, fabulously fun costumes, technical elements and a fresh look at this historical musical, known and loved by generations, enjoying yet another revival.  “We’re sharing the history, tradition and passion of theater, passing the torch to another generation,” notes Braley. “It’s why we go to work, each day.”  

Six evening performances are scheduled in the Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy: 7pm on Nov 4 & 5, 10 thru the 13th, and there will be one 3pm matinee on Saturday, Nov 6th.  

As per LA school regulations, audience members are required to be masked, while inside the theater.  Performers will not be masked, while performing on stage.Student tickets are held at a low $5 for the entire season by sponsors Peapod Jewelry and First National Wealth Management, and adult tickets are $16.  

Reservations available by emailing Heartwood at info@heartwoodtheater.org or phoning 563-1373 (please do not contact Lincoln Academy for tickets).  Seating is unreserved, unless specifically requested in advance.  Performances typically sell out; early reservations are strongly encouraged.  For more details visit www.heartwoodtheater.org.

“Oklahoma!” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. www.concordtheatricals.com.

Press release courtesy of Heartwood Regional Theater Company.