Dorset Players wrap 91st season with `Oklahoma!'

Local community troupe presents classic musical

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DORSET — It's a long way from Claremore, Oklahoma, to Dorset, Vermont. But over the coming few weekends, that distance will much, much shorter.

The Dorset Players will bring down the curtain on their 91st anniversary season with "Oklahoma!", considered one of the ground-breaking musicals in Broadway history. The show is the first musical written by the legendary partnership of Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Having earned a special Pulitzer Prize in 1944, the show is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, "Green Grow the Lilacs."

Director and producer Suzi Dorgeloh, who has been with the Players for three decades, said that she had directed several musicals in the past and by mid-summer 2018 no Players member had yet suggested a closing season musical for 2019, so she stepped forward.

"I suggested `Oklahoma!' as we had not done that show since 1993 in the old playhouse," Dorgeloh said "We wanted to conclude our 91st year with a classic musical that would draw large audiences, and it doesn't get better than this show."

The storyline itself is from another time, but seems timeless at its core. Set in 1906 near Claremore, Indian Territory, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey and two rivals vying for her hand, cowboy Curly and the shady farmhand Jud. Another love story brewing in the background involves cowboy Will and his playful fianc e, Annie.

The cast of 23 has been put through its paces for months preparing for acting, singing and dancing.

"`Oklahoma!' is a massive show with so many moving pieces," Dorgeloh said. "Our cast, though, is the major piece. We do have one movable set, which I think the audience will enjoy. Although we combed the area for a suitable surrey, we were not able to find one that was manageable with our limited wing space."

Dorgeloh, who is also the Players' longtime costume designer, added that the costume staff "has had their challenges for this show, but the results will be delightful."

Dorgeloh also counts musical director Tom Salmon and choreographer Kelly Gaiotti as "tremendous, deeply experience assets to this production."

Along with Salmon, choreographer Gaiotti has worked on the production for almost six months, long before rehearsals began in February.

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Gaiotti invoked the words and spirit of the musical's original dance master, Agnes de Mille, who once famously said: "The choreographic process is exhausting. It happens on one's feet after hours of work, and the energy required is roughly the equivalent of writing a novel and winning a tennis match simultaneously."

Dorgeloh had approached Gaiotti in October to take charge of the project's dance, and the latter seized the challenge with great zeal and diligence.

"I have a great love of dance history and iconic works from my college dance studies," Gaiotti, a trained dancer, said in a break from rehearsals. "I began researching and learning the movement, memorizing the music and the story line since early November. Unlike a script or musical score, choreography requires taking a framework and building movement around the dancers in your cast."

As many of the cast tried to warn Gaiotti that they are not dancers, she continued to say that she believed "everyone has the potential to dance."

"I always love see more in others than they see in themselves and can't wait to show the audience what great dancers I have," Gaiotti said. "I've so enjoyed this great group of people that you get to spend long hours with, and they have given me a gift of creativity again I did not know how much I missed. The choreographic process is quite exhausting, exhilarating, and above all rewarding. The end result is something not to be missed."

Players' veteran actor Daniel Silver, also on rehearsal break, agreed with Gaiotti, adding that the entire process of the making of "Oklahoma!" was a monumental undertaking but that Dorgeloh, Gaiotti and Salmon have made "the daunting task of wrangling 23 cast members as easy as falling off a log."

Silver further citied the presence of company regulars as well as newcomers who have gelled into "about as perfect a casting as you can get."

Director Dorgeloh, standing nearby, smiled at her actor's enthusiasm, saying this very trait will spill over onto the stage, and is a must-see for audiences.

"The Dorset Players are known for their musicals and this month's production of `Oklahoma!' will be counted among them," Dorgeloh said. "This show is now 76 years old and offers the audience, old and young, a variety of experiences of sight and sound, such as the set, lighting and costumes which create the effect of a 1906 Indian Territory farm and ranch, along with many memorable songs that you can hum or sing as you leave. Get your tickets early!"

"Oklahoma!" will run on May 17-18 and May 24-25 at 7:30 p.m. and on May 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. The Dorset Players, at the Dorset Playhouse, 104 Cheney Road, Dorset. Info and tickets: dorsetplayers.org or 802-867-5570

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com; Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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