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Students say the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic will never be out of date

  • Noah Zepponi, center, who plays the role of Will Parker, sings the song "Kansas City" during a production of "Oklahoma!" at the Person Theatre at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, on Sunday, February 19, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

It has been nearly 70 years since "Oklahoma!" opened on Broadway, but people still are discovering the classic American musical.

That includes student performers at Sonoma State University, who finished the play's two-week run Sunday at Evert B. Person Theatre on the Rohnert Park campus.

The story of love and conflict in the Oklahoma Territory will touch hearts 70 years from now, said Vanessa Begley, who portrayed farm girl Laurey Williams.

Oklahoma! At SSU Theatre

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"Even though it's set in 1907, I don't think it will ever be out of date," she said.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein production lifted American spirits during the darkest days of World War II.

"It's about strivers, people who were outsiders, who came to a strange place and created a community," said Lynne Morrow, the SSU music professor who directed Sunday's production. "It tells an American story back to an American audience."

"Oklahoma!" was one of the first American musicals that used songs, comedy, romance, drama and dance to drive a compelling storyline.

It gave us enduring melodies that include "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin,'" "Surrey With The Fringe On Top" and "People Will Say We're In Love."

The Sonoma State production brought some new interpretation to the musical. It humanized Jud Fry, the menacing farmhand who vies with cowboy Curly McLain for Laurey's hand.

Jud may be surly, but "it doesn't mean he has no feelings," said Jon Ostlund, who played him. "From his point of view, &‘Oklahoma!' is a tragedy."


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