‘Oklahoma!’ opens this weekend at PACE Center

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Putting on an elaborate musical production like “Oklahoma!” is no easy feat.

Four months after the first round of auditions, director Kim Moore and her team were putting the final touches on the show, which features 80 cast members and another 20 or so behind-the-scenes players.

Moore, a director for the Parker Theatre Academy, and assistant director Cindy Koehler took time away from finalizing lighting cues to talk about the seven-show run July 26-Aug. 4 at the Parker Arts, Culture and Events Center.

Rehearsals began in mid-June and, in the week ahead of opening night, the cast sought to perfect performances of well-known numbers like “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and title song “Oklahoma!” Koehler said the dream ballet is a particularly “remarkable” and “powerful” scene, although she believes the manner in which the story unfolds is the show’s best asset.

Oklahoma farmland provides the backdrop for the love story that follows the trials and tribulations of cowboy Curly McLain and farm girl Laurey Williams. The couple’s triumphant story mirrors Oklahoma’s rise to prominence as a state.

The cast members are so convincing in their roles, and the directors have spent so much time around them in character, that Koehler says she has stopped calling them by their real names. In the lead roles are Will Freyschlag as Curly, Laura Gerhard as Laurey, Cara Lippit as Ado Annie, J.B. Miller as Aunt Eller, and Josh Holcomb as Ali Hakim. The cast ranges in age from 6 to 80, Moore said.

The crew moved the set to PACE last weekend, then live-tested microphones while actors and actresses nailed down solos and ensemble musical numbers. Others, like Koehler, got down to details by making props such as rabbit pelts and Oklahoma state flags.

Strong ticket sales are a good indication of the excitement surrounding “Oklahoma!” and Moore said if people don’t buy them soon, they will be gone. A portion of all tickets sales will benefit the Parker Task Force. On July 28, a celebrity pie auction with auctioneer “Ado Annie” will benefit the outreach programs of the PACE Renaissance Guild.

Tickets start at $18.50 and can be ordered online at www.pacecenteronline.org or by calling the PACE box office at 303-805-6800.

‘Oklahoma!’ performances

7:30 p.m. July 26 and July 27

2 p.m. July 28

7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 and Aug. 3

2 p.m. August 3 and Aug. 4