Saw Oklahoma! at Lyric Opera in Chicago, it was unbelieveably amazing!!!! Everything so beautifully done, I can't rave enough! I'm so glad I splurged on a front row seat, because seeing the actors up close makes it so much more real and personal, and it's so thrilling to feel the vibration of the dancers' feet when they hit the stage and the orchestra in the pit when the music crescendos. Seeing all the little detail of the set is cool too; they built a little house, kind of like a shadow box, with a little space inside where the actors could stand and you could see Laurey move around while Aunt Eller and Curly talked outside, or how they used little hanging lights in front of the backdrop for stars in the sky during the box social, all sorts of cool stuff like that. And you really feel like you're part of the party during "The Farmer and the Cowman"! (Although I discovered that even in the front row, you are still likely to sit next to people who talk during the show. Thankfully, they didn't come back for the second act!)
The very best part though, was just hearing awesome singers sing awesome songs. John Cudia and Ashley Brown I was already a fan of, and just as I suspected, they were perfect for Curly and Laurey. "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" and "People Will Say We're In Love" were heavenly moments of pure bliss in their capable hands. Gorgeous voices, and both so charming and sweet. And funny. It was lovely to see John's comedic side, since in Phantom it's pretty much emo all the time (not that I don't love it!) but it was great to see how hilarious he could be, especially during "Pore Jud is Daid". We got the understudy for Jud, Paul LaRosa, but he was very good, great voice, maybe a little too romantically sung for Jud, but he fit the part well otherwise. Paula Scrofano was just perfect as Aunt Eller, crusty and sassy and wise and warm, you couldn't ask for more. Tari Kelly as Ado Annie and Curtis Holbrook as Will Parker were good and solid, as was Usman Ally as Ali Hakim. The ensemble were great, in particular the ladies in their colorful calicoes doing their pretty dance during "Many A New Day" were a vision of loveliness. The orchestra was great, neither too loud or reserved, which can sometimes be a problem when orchestras more used to classical stuff venture to showtunes, but they got it just right.
My one nitpick is that the first act ended with the Dream Ballet and left out the little bit where Laurey wakes up and it's Jud saying 'we better get ready for the party', because it's in the original script that way, and I think it's stronger dramatically to end the first act back in reality, and see the effect the dream has had on Laurey in her reaction to Jud. But from a practical standpoint, I can understand why they cut it out, since it is a lot of work to change the set back for just one line. The sets were beautiful, I must mention. The painted backdrops were just dreamy and enchanted looking, and the great big structures of the barns and houses that the characters could actually sit on the roofs of, or hang out of the windows of, were really cool.
The songs, though, first and foremost, are Oklahoma!'s crowning glory; the title song was possibly the most exhilarating thing I've seen/heard on a live stage ever. But when the curtain first went up, and then Curly came out on stage singing "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'", I damn near cried. So joyous, so beautiful. And when Curly looks out over 'the bright golden haze on the meadow', the actor on stage is looking out over the audience, and for just about two seconds, he looked straight at ME!!! For a tiny little moment, the glorious voice of John Cudia sang one of the most beautiful songs ever written TO ME. It literally was a moment out of my dreams (reference intended!) and in that moment, I was the happiest little fangirl in world. I will remember that FOREVER. The whole show was magical and wonderful, just as good as I imagined, but the experience of seeing it live was even better than I could have ever imagined.
I sure am interested in seeing Lyric's The Sound of Music next year, although I doubt anything could ever top the magic of this show.