Theatre UCF’s Oklahoma! held at Dr. Phillips Center | NSM Today

From: NSM Today
Number of sources: Two
Word Count: 624
Date of Publication: April 9, 2017

When UCF student Kyle Laing walked onstage for rehearsals of “Oklahoma!”, Theatre UCF’s latest play, he was blown away. He was not looking out into the 300-seat Theatre on UCF’s campus. He was standing on the main stage of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center.

“It’s absolutely incredible. This space is beyond anything I think any of us have ever really experienced,” said Laing, who plays Curly. “It’s truly an honor to be performing in such a beautiful venue and having the opportunity to perform for such a large amount of people.”

Oklahoma!, which is Theatre UCF’s final production of the spring season, will hold both of its performances in the 2,700-seat Walt Disney Theater as part of UCF Celebrates the Arts on Friday and Saturday. This is the first time that UCF’s spring musical has been held downtown.

“It’s so cool because we have to come down here and kind of adapt to a more professional mindset,” stage manager Ben Parrish said. “We learn very professional methods at UCF but it’s so different coming down here and having to do that and be in those parameters.”

While the venue may be a new experience, the play is familiar for many. “Oklahoma!”, considered to be one of the first true musicals, originally premiered in 1943 and has been adapted many times over the years.

“It was the first production that married music and dance and storytelling in the way that we expect musicals to nowadays,” Parrish said. “It’s the harbinger of all the things that have come after it.”

The play, which takes place in the late 1800’s, follows the story of a pair of romances as they develop in the rural Oklahoma territory.

“There’s Curly, who’s a cowboy, and Jud, who’s a farmer, and they’re at odds over their love interest, Laurey Williams,” Parrish said. “It’s kind of this whole back and forth about relationships and love and it’s really interesting to see because we get to see how that would’ve played out 100-and-something years ago.”

For Laing, playing Curly has been especially interesting since this is not his first time acting in a production of “Oklahoma!”. He had previously played Will Parker, another cowboy.

“It’s a cool, different look on it now, getting to do it from a different character perspective,” Laing said. “[Curly]’s very proud of himself, he’s very confident in himself and he’s protective of Laurey and he enjoys her company and her presence in his life.”

Putting on a play in a much larger theater has been a big adjustment for the cast and crew. But it has also been a challenge to adapt an old play to fit a modern audience.

“Old musicals and old plays, they tell their stories differently,” Parrish said. “Every single moment isn’t made to grab your attention … the story unfolds just a little slower and things don’t feel quite as pushed.”

One issue that had to be addressed was changing scenes. In the original script, each scene change calls for a blackout so that crew members can reorganize the set. This would likely confuse a modern audience.

“If you’re sitting in the theater and you’re watching a show, when you see a blackout, that either means Act I is over or the play is over,” Parrish said. “You have to adapt certain things like that to tell the story a different way.”

While the blackouts have been removed and a couple lines of dialogue have been tweaked, the play is still very much like what audiences would have seen in the 40s and have seen adapted throughout the last 74 years.

“It’s such an honor,” Laing said, “To be doing such an iconic production and be able to sing these songs that just everybody knows.”

About Christian Simmons 43 Articles
My name is Christian Simmons, and I recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with my master's degree in integrated business management. My undergrad degree from UCF is in journalism. I'm passionate about sports in all its forms. I've had internships with the Sun Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, NPR affiliate WMFE and CBS affiliate WKMG. I'm also the co-founder and editor of Knight Sports Now, a student publication that has covered UCF sports since 2017. As a freelance reporter, my stories have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, The New Orleans Advocate, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La. and the Baltimore Sun, among others.