Photos by Ann McCreary Oklahoma! is packed with music, dancing and comedy.

Photos by Ann McCreary

Oklahoma! is packed with music, dancing and comedy.

Methow Valley Theater production draws on local talent

By Ann McCreary

Nadine van Hees just couldn’t help herself when the opportunity to direct the Methow Valley Theater’s production of Oklahoma! presented itself.

“Just when I think I’ve had enough, somebody will thank me, and give me ‘that look,’ and I’m hooked again. When you do it for love and beauty, that’s all it takes to do it again,” van Hees said.

A veteran of numerous local productions as actress or director over the years, van Hees said she was lured into directing again by the enduring appeal of Oklahoma!, which opens Friday (March 18) at the Methow Valley Community Center for two weekends of performances.

“It’s full of laughter and love, singing and dancing, a great script and some of the best music you’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing,” van Hees said.

Set in a small town in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906, the musical weaves together romantic plots and subplots.

Photo by Ann McCreary Jeremiah Wicken as Curley and Maggie Wicken as Laurie play the lead romantic roles in Oklahoma!

Photo by Ann McCreary

Jeremiah Wicken as Curley and Maggie Wicken as Laurie play the lead romantic roles in Oklahoma!

“In spite of the distant place and time, in many ways this story remains relevant today. It is the ageless tale of a community of good people who must overcome their differences in order to move forward,” van Hees said.

The realities of small town living portrayed in Oklahoma! will resonate with Methow Valley audiences, she said.

“Through song and dance, comedy and tragedy, the show includes both the expansive spirit of the early West, and the sometimes claustrophobic nature of small community relationships,” she said.

First produced on Broadway in 1943, and the first Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein collaboration, the play was considered revolutionary because of its intricate integration of song and story line, and the simplicity and austerity of its production design, van Hees said.

The local cast includes veterans of local theater as well as new faces to the Methow Valley Theater stage.

The show is a Methow Valley debut for the romantic leads, Maggie Wicken (Laurie) and Jeremiah Wicken (Curley). The couple moved to the Methow Valley with their two children in September and bring with them a background in community theater.

“When they auditioned I thought, ‘Where did you come from?’” van Hees said. “It’s a joy working with so much talent and good nature.”

The cast ranges in age from 9-year-old Pearl McArthur to 90-plus-year-old Bob Hoffman, who has been in numerous Methow Valley Theater productions and takes to the stage again in the role of Cord Elam.

The play includes a father/son act of Paul Budrow, who plays Ike Skidmore, and his son Evan Budrow, who plays Mike and Joe. This is the first theater production for both of them, van Hees said. A mother/daughter combo of Kate and Lilian Overbeck also joins the cast.

Methow Valley Theater veteran Jody Love provided help with choreography, light design and set-up, as well as taking the stage in the role of Ellen. “Without Jody Love this show would not have happened,” van Hees said.

Several people play multiple roles in the production, van Hees said. Meg Trebon plays Aunt Eller and is costume mistress for the production.  Renda Grim performs onstage and helps with costumes and props.

Matt Armbrust plays a cowboy and is also set designer, vocal coach, stand-in and all-around general assistant. “He is inspirational to the youngsters and a wonderful, over-the-top theatrical role model,” van Hees said.

Additional cast members include Caleb Smith, Carol Ranck, Nicole Legros and Rollean DelRio. Nick Bosco built the set and Cheyenne Fonda is the sound technician.

Pulling together the play “has not been an easy road with a ton of sickness and one of the harder winters I can remember during our rehearsals,” van Hees said.

“People drive from as far as Mazama and Brewster in blizzards to make them. We’ve had strep throat, fires, broken cars and broken bones. Many obstacles have been presented, and the cast deserves a lot of kudos for their hard work,” van Hees said.

Despite the challenges, the show will go on. Performances are at the Methow Valley Community Center on March 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. There is one matinee performance on Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $12. Front row seats may be purchased in advance at Methow Valley Chiropractic or at the door.