Summer Stage Wooster to present 'Oklahoma'

Summer Stage Wooster to present 'Oklahoma'
Ellen Pill

"Oklahoma" production crew confer during rehearsal: choreographer Stephanie Musselman, left, artistic director Todd Patterson and stage manager Tammy Plasterer.


For two weekends, July 20 and 21 and July 26, 27 and 28, Summer Stage Wooster will present Rogers and Hammerstein's first musical, "Oklahoma," at Wooster High School Performing Arts Center.

Over 50 entertainers from the Wayne County area are rehearsing to present the classic show.

Set in the Oklahoma Territory in the early 1900s, "Oklahoma" was a huge box office hit on Broadway in 1943, running for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. It is currently enjoying a revamped and successful revival on the Broadway stage.

"It's a classic for a reason," Summer Stage artistic director Todd Patterson said.

Summer Stage Wooster is a local nonprofit working with the Wooster City Schools to support both local arts performance as well as Wooster High School's drama club.

"I'm proud of the fact that we are all connected to Wayne County," Patterson said. "You don't have to look very far around here to find a lot of talented, fun people who love to do musical theater, not only performers, but backstage production people too."

Patterson said "Oklahoma" seemed like a good fit for the area. "It's a popular show, and it has a rural appeal," he said. "'Oklahoma' was every bit as groundbreaking and popular in its time as 'Hamilton' was in ours. It took the theater world by storm as the first musical that told a story from beginning to end with the acting and music."

The cast includes many area educators including vocal music teachers and drama club advisors. There also are many alumni of both Wooster High School drama club and previous Summer Stage productions. And it's a family affair with some families in the production sharing the fun with two or three generations.

"Oklahoma" includes a ballet dream sequence, so Summer Stage turned to another local nonprofit as a partner in bringing the scene to life by incorporating ballet dancers from Ballet Wooster.

The production also features a 23-piece live pit orchestra. "The orchestra is great," Patterson said. "And production staff is very impressed with the cast's vocal ability."

The venue itself — Wooster High School Performing Arts Center — is an often underused community asset, according to Patterson. "I fell in love with it the day it opened in 1994," he said. "We feel we do the space justice with these large-scale, big productions."

An unusual aspect of the Summer Stage show is the special lights and backdrops that have been rented. "Much of it is above and beyond what we have done before," Patterson said.

Patterson believes they may be the first theater in the area to use a new LED screen technology for some of the backdrops.

With the use of computer-generated scene backgrounds comes the ability to include motion rather than just a static picture. Patterson said, "Corn will be waving in the wind."

Acting space will be maximized by a passerelle, which is a walkway out in front of the pit that serves to bring the actors closer to the audience. For those who watched this year's Tony Awards, many of the production numbers used the passerelle.

Wooster High School alumnus Joe Bruch plays Curly in the show. "Oklahoma" will be his fifth Summer Stage production. Bruch said he enjoys sharing his passion for theater with other like-minded people. He said the role of Curly is written in a way that allows the actor some freedom in interpretation.

"You can really put yourself into these roles and find an angle to play them that's true to the way it's written but is also engaging for new audiences," Bruch said.

Bruch also is enjoying learning about the era. "It's been fun doing cowboy research," he said.

"We think we have a very talented group," Patterson said. "And the biggest thing: People are nice, kind and sincere and just a joy to work with."

"Everyone should come," Bruch said. "It's a really fun show and historically important. And you might see someone you know on stage doing something they love."

Summer Stage Wooster will present "Oklahoma" on July 20, 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. and July 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. Seats are reserved and are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

Tickets are available at the website at and via Facebook events at

Wooster High School is located at 515 Oldman Road in Wooster.

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