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Opera Theatre to celebrate 75th anniversary of "Oklahoma!" with multiple performances

  • Casey Huls (left) as Curly and Mackenzie Segard (right) as Laurey.

Posted on January 26, 2018

Running for more than 2,000 performances, "Oklahoma!" opened on Broadway in 1943. The show has withstood the test of time, boasting a 1944 Pulitzer Prize, numerous Tony Award nominations, national tours, international performances and even a 2003 film starring Hugh Jackman.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the production, GVSU Opera Theatre students will bring Rodgers and Hammerstein's first collaborative production to West Michigan with multiple performances.

Presentations of "Oklahoma!" will take place February 2, 3, 9 and 10, at 7:30 p.m., and February 4 and 11, at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in Louis Armstrong Theatre, located in the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts.

Set in the West just after the turn of the century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colorful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a high-spirited farm girl, play out their love story ending with the beginning of a new life in Oklahoma.

Dale Schriemer, GVSU Opera Theatre founder and artistic director and professor of voice, said this will be the first time Grand Valley students perform a Rodgers and Hammerstein production.

For Casey Huls, a senior music education major who plays Curly in the show, performing in a Rodgers and Hammerstein production resonates on a personal level.

"I've loved their work since I was a kid. I would watch 'The Sound of Music' and 'Cinderella' with my family all the time, singing along every chance I could get," said Huls, from Hudsonville. "This is my first time performing in a show of theirs, so it has that special sort of significance to it."

There is no Curly without Laurey in "Oklahoma!" and Mackenzie Segard, a senior music education major, said she looks forward to portraying the character because of her independence and extreme sassiness. 

"She's really in love with Curly, but she's far too stubborn to show him or anyone else how she really feels," said Segard, from Hudsonville. "We have made her to be a very strong individual."

Grand Valley alumnus Christopher Carter will be returning to campus to direct "Oklahoma!" on the heels of wrapping up his own involvement in the same production with the Chicago Lyric Opera.

Carter, '09, said performing "Oklahoma!" will be challenging for students for a number of reasons, but mostly because of the time period in which the plot is set.

"The challenges I think the students will face are connecting with that era, completely understanding how these people lived and survived before that territory became a state," said Carter. "It will also be a challenge for them to tackle such a popular, traditional musical and make it their own because many theater pieces today are so modernized."

Regardless of the challenges, Huls said he and his fellow cast members are ready to deliver on the stage.

"Our cast and crew have put so much work into making this a great production," said Huls. "The music is charming, the characters are quirky and each cast member does a great job of embodying both the story and the era in which it takes place."

Ticket prices for "Oklahoma!" are $14 for adults; $12 seniors and GVSU faculty, staff and alumni; and $6 for students and groups. Tickets can be purchased through the Louis Armstrong Theatre box office in-person Monday - Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., or by calling (616) 331-2300. Tickets are also available via

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