Oklahoma!

Farmers, cowboys and their ladies kick up their heels at a box social in Beef & Boards' production of "Oklahoma!"

INDIANAPOLIS – While Doug King, adjunct dance faculty instructor for Anderson University, has performed in almost 60 performances at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, the current production of “Oklahoma!” offers him a new experience. This time he is sharing the stage with two of his former students.

“These are two of some of our finest graduates,” said King, who began the program at the university 14 years ago alongside Dr. Wright and Dr. Goetzinger. “There is, of course, a great pride working with them. First, that they are working and using the training and technique that we, as instructors, have set down, and second, it is a joy to work with a former student.”

Although Leah DeWalt, who plays Sarah Skidmore, has performed in several prestigious venues, this is her debut at Beef and Boards.

“I am having a blast working with (King) onstage in Oklahoma!” she said. “It’s great to learn his choreography again and also get to perform onstage alongside him eight times a week as a fellow professional! His work is always clean and clear, and he creates movement to fit each style and ability within the cast.”

King’s other former student, Jordan Moody, who plays Shorty, is also at this venue for the first time.

“I am doing what I love because of people like my high school choir director, Mrs. Mott, and college professor, Doug King,” he said. “I enjoyed performing in high school, but didn’t pursue it until Doug King told me I had potential!”

This production is a great deal of fun for both the cast and the audience. The high-energy, fast-paced songs have the cowboys dancing double time. Whether they are two-stepping, square dancing or have taps on the soles of their boots, they are a delight to watch.

Even though the movement on stage and the bright costumes are enchanting, the vocal performances steal the show. The incredible, rich tones that emanate from Eric Morris (who plays Curly), Grace Anne Field (who plays Laurey) and Jonah D. Winston (who plays Jud Fry) are captivating.

Audience members knew they were in for a special treat before anyone even stepped onto the stage. The dark auditorium was filled with the clear, full tones of Morris as he opened with “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” One classic song after another was delivered in perfect pitch with wonderful harmonies.

Not only is the duet between Morris and Field outstanding, but so is the duet between Morris and Winston. I expected to see a funny, campy show (which I did), but I was not expecting the stellar vocal performances of these exceptional singers.

Of course, the storyline is a little silly and really only provides an opportunity for singing, dancing and a number of good-natured jokes. But the familiar tunes in Oklahoma! more than make up for any plot holes that come along.

“The magic and dances are great,” said King. “‘Kansas City’” is a great dance, and there is no better feeling than singing ‘Oklahoma!’ and hearing the crowd cheer.”

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