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Giddy up, Oklahoma’s comin’ to town!

Credit: Ross Davidson

Left: Meaghan Sider as Laurey Williams and Josh Clemenger as Curly McLain sing “People Will Say We're in Love,” Reprise. Right: The Cast of Oklahoma! sing and dance throughout the production.

Stephanie Lai | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 18th, 2013

It’s not every day you see 45 people crammed on the stage at the Palace Theatre on Dundas Street.

Oklahoma! director and choreographer Ceris Thomas has been working on the production since spring. The show opened November 14 and runs for 10 days.

Thomas chose Oklahoma! for its timelessness and the significance of Musical Theatre Productions’ (MTP) 25th anniversary year.

“It’s considered by many to be one of the roots of the first true musical theatre storytelling,” she said. “It’s a great one to use for [a] celebratory season.”

Thomas had never before worked on Oklahoma!, which allows for a big cast, but she said she wouldn’t do it again.

The cast, however, is a talented (large) group who make it all work. “They’re really, really talented and everyone who auditioned for the show was super intensely excited about the show,” she said. “If they like it, they really like it. They love it. Everyone who comes out is really excited to be a part of it, and excited to make it work.”

Thomas’ cast was “invaluable” to her as a choreographer. “Some of the people in this show can really dance ... anything I threw at them step-wise, [they] really ate it up.” They in turn made her role a little easier.

She also had the opportunity to make this show a little different. “I wanted to try to inject as much humour and energy and vibrancy into this version,” she said. “With my set design and costume design, we definitely have that – it’s very bright, it’s very colourful.”

Another aspect on the other side of the spectrum is played up. “A lot of the violence or aggression in the play is taken to a further extreme – a more modern extreme,” said Thomas. “It’s a full-on fight that has been professionally choreographed and these guys are meticulously rehearsing it.”

The fight is lead cast member Josh Clemenger’s favourite aspect of the production.

“We’ve had a really great fight choreographer and we’ve expanded some of the violence in the show so that it’s not as played out as it has been in the past,” he said. “[It’s] a large-scale thing going on, which is what we’ve created in a couple of the scenes.”

In regards to his character Curly McLain, Clemenger described him as the “quintessential cowboy.”

“A poet at heart, but certainly not one to keep his head stuck in a book.”

Clemenger, a fourth-year music voice major at Western University is knee-deep in commitments, but makes it work – just barely, though, he insisted.

“It’s about pacing yourself, really, that’s the hardest part about this business,” he said. “You can’t get behind on sleep, you can’t get sick because you’ve got a whole bunch of people on your team counting [on] you.”

However, the magnitude of the cast’s talent allows them to keep moving forward, illnesses aside.

Meaghan Sider, Clemenger’s castmate and female counterpart, had been sick for two and a half months and said it’s only starting to subside.

“[I’m] just taking it day by day ... Having good technique has gotten me through the whole rehearsal process, and I’m hoping will get me through the show,” said Sider.

She admitted that she doesn’t have much of a social life, but that the cast has become her social life, and being back in theatre has been “wonderful.”

“I feel so at home. Ever since we started rehearsals, I leave school and I come to rehearsal and I’m in my happy place. This is what I want to be doing.”

Are you convinced? Will you be seeing it?

“You’ve got to see 45 people on this little stage,” said Thomas. “If you don’t know this musical, then you need to get off your duff and get down here and see it because it’s a classic and you should know it.”

Clemenger finished in saying, “We’re going to let you sing along, and doesn’t everyone want to sing along when they come and see a musical?”

Oklahoma! opened November 14 and runs to November 24. Adult tickets are $29, and tickets for children 13 and under are $17, available for purchase on

From November 21 to 24, a portion of all ticket sales for Oklahoma! will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Fund.
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