Ohio actors strut stuff in #8216;Oklahoma#8217;

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington Outdoor Theatre began its 14th year by presenting one of Broadway’s all-time great musicals, “Oklahoma!”

This weekend is the last performance for the cast.

Several aspiring actors from Ohio are in the play — Rachel Meadows and Amber Pappas, both of Proctorville; Thomas Rice, of South Point; and Rachel Woodrum, of Franklin Furnace and a music teacher at Chesapeake High School and Middle School

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Patty Freeman, of Ironton, is director and choreographer of the pre-show and choreographer of “Oklahoma!” Woodrum is vocal director of the pre-show and she plays “Kate” in the production, one of the “Laurey’s” friends in a supporting role.

“This is the first time I’ve been involved in Huntington Outdoor Theatre,” Woodrum said. “I love it. This has been a great experience for me.”

Thomas Rice, a 17-year-old from Catlettsburg makes his debut appearance on the H.O.T. stage as a principle singer and dancer in the cowboy chorus, where he performs difficult dances.

Meadows, a 15-year-old makes her debut as a member of the powerful townsperson chorus. Pappas, a veteran to the H.O.T. stage at only 12 years old, is also a member of the townsperson chorus.

This past weekend between 800 and 1,000 people attended each night.

The production cost more than $90,000 to put on and has a cast of 64 members.

Before the musical “Oklahoma” first opened on Broadway, March 31, 1943, investors thought they had lost their money for sure and everybody was convinced it was a box-office disaster.

The scene is Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. At that time, successful plays included sexy chorus girls in flimsy attire but Rogers and Hammerstein put together an American folk-ballet that “held the audience spellbound” from the opening act with a standing ovation.

According to Mark Lubbock in his book “The Complete Book of Light Opera,” the play created box-office history running for five years and nine months — 2,248 performances — breaking all of the then existing records both for length of run and for box-office receipts.

Then, a company toured the United States for 10 years and the original cast went on tour to 71 cities. The play was produced around the world and in London it was the longest in the 300-year history of the Drury Lane Theatre.

Later it became an Academy Award-winning motion picture. It is a reflection on the history of turn-of-the-20th century old west.

Filled with cowboys and farmers, it is a reflection on the history of this era.

At the same time it expresses optimism for the future.

“Oklahoma!” will be presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Ritter Park Amphitheater. Tickets are $16 for general admission and $14 for 65 and older and children 5 to 12. Children under 5 are free.

Groups of 20 or more are $14 if they are purchased at the same time. Tickets can be purchased beginning at 6 p.m. at the gates on the nights of the show or at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Box Office, Borders Books and Music in the Huntington Mall and Empire Books & News in Pullman Square.

The gates open at 6:30 p.m. for picnicking or concessions are available. The pre-show starts at 7 p.m. and the main show begins at 8:30 p.m. Bring lawn chairs.

For more information, call Patti Shaver at (304) 523-8080 or visit the Web site at http://www.hotwv.org.