FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 6, 2006
PREPARATIONS FOR SPRING MUSICAL CONTINUE AT NORTHWESTERN
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! will come sweapin’ onto the campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University April 25-28, 2007, as part of the university’s observance of the State of Oklahoma’s Centennial Celebration, as well as the school’s 110th anniversary. A special matinee performance also is scheduled prior to the annual Alumni Reunion on April 28.
More than 80 current students, employees, alumni and friends of the university will be involved in one way or another in the campus production before the curtain opens on the beloved musical.
The university’s music and theatre programs are coming together to produce this Pulitzer Prize-winning show.
“I’m excited that for the first time while I’ve been here, music and theatre have been able to work our schedules out to do something together,” said Kimberly Weast, associate professor of theatre whose production responsibilities will be as director and technical director of the show. “It is going to be really exciting and challenging; I’m already thinking about a lot of different concepts.”
Eddie Vandewalker, director of choral and vocal studies at Northwestern, will join Weast as the musical director and choreographer for the production.
The two directors agreed that although they are thinking about set design, they want this production to shine through the costume and the talent of those in the show.
“Our production will be very people-oriented,” Vandewalker said. “Sets can overtake a show sometimes; we want ours to be about the people and the meaning behind the spirit of celebrating the Centennial. Through the music in the production, like the state song of ‘Oklahoma,’ it shows that this state was built by people and their hard work, not because they had things.”
Weast said she will be placing an emphasis on character and storyline – not the spectacle of the show. She also said she has asked everyone in the cast not to view the movie prior to the performance so that their characters will not be based on that stereotypical version.
Although formal rehearsals will begin in the spring, planning for this musical actually began last April when the license to produce the show at Northwestern was in the research stages.
A cast was selected in late October, and Vandewalker said some of the lead vocalists already have begun practicing their parts, like Elizabeth Smith, who’s character is Aunt Eller.
“’Oklahoma’ is one of my favorite musicals and being in it gives me the chance to do what I love, which is singing and acting,” the Alva graduate student said. “It’s great to be a part of our state’s centennial celebration. I am looking forward to getting started.”
Terry Floyd, instructor of mass communications and adviser to campus radio station KNSU, also landed a role in the production. He’ll be playing the part of Ike Skidmore.
“I’m most looking forward to working with the cast and being under the direction of Eddie Vandewalker and Kim Weast,” the Follett, Texas, native said. “I have a lot of respect for them and their talents, so learning new techniques and being a part of their production will really be a great experience for me. I’m also looking forward to working with so much musical and acting talent. I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Besides the principle actors, a number of people will be involved in chorus and dance segments of the show. Some of those members already have been cast, but Weast and Vandewalker expect to have chorus additions in the spring.
One of those chorus members is Dr. Janet Cunningham, university president.
“I was so impressed with Dr. Cunningham,” Weast said. “She came to auditions and sang, did her monologue, danced. She was very good.”
A live band will accompany the characters throughout the performance, which will be directed by Dr. Kathryn Lindberg, Northwestern’s director of bands. She will serve the production as the orchestra director and show conductor.
Ling-Yu “Alice” Kan, instructor of music, will be the rehearsal and performance pianist.
As Weast continues to think about set design, she has a request of everyone as they enter the holiday season. She’s asking everyone to save their empty wrapping paper tubes and used tissue paper from Christmas packages rather than throwing it all away and donate them to the theatre.
“We have a lot of corn stalks to make and these items will help us to keep our costs down as much as possible,” Weast said.
Weast also said the theatre could use the donation of a few old sheets to drape over costumes that are in storage.
Although many things are underway for the production, a lot still needs to be determined, so the show’s directors ask all those interested in attending the musical to continue watching for more information as they all hope to have a packed Herod Hall Auditorium.
“Large audiences are great for all of those involved,” Floyd said. “I think that large audiences give the actors more to ‘play to.’ The more the crowd is involved and enjoys the show, the better the acting, playing and singing becomes. Just like having a large crowd for a sporting event helps the home team, so does a large crowd in helping those who are putting on the performance.”
The show’s directors can be reached at (580) 327-8462 (Weast) or (580) 327-8692 (Vandewalker).
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