"Oklahoma" coming to Tahoe-Truckee High School | SierraSun.com

"Oklahoma" coming to Tahoe-Truckee High School

--by Doug SlaterSome of the cast members gear up for the TTHS production of "Oklahoma!": Back row, l-r, Ben Gaunt, Katie Porter, Marcus Dallas, Blythe Marshman, Lindsey Hines. Front row, l-r, Richard Hess, Tiffany Shegg, Joe Raso, Taylor Gordon.

When Roger and Hammerstein’s classic musical “Oklahoma!” first burst onto the Broadway scene in 1943, the country was in throws of World War II, and the people, in need of a feeling of patriotism and an escape.

“People needed to feel good about their country, about where they were living, and about the hard work they were doing,” says Peggy Boelk, director of Tahoe-Truckee High School’s annual musical. “I think people are in need of that again, today, and I couldn’t think of a better time than now to do this show.”

On Friday, roughly 37 talented TTHS students will attempt to rekindle those feelings in Truckee residents with the opening of their rendition of “Oklahoma!,” this year’s spring musical.

The play, which takes both a serious and light-hearted look at the early years of the formation of the state of Oklahoma, is ripe with drama, hilarity, American history and a host of timeless tunes.

“It’s got some drama, but really, the music is so uplifting,” Boelk said. “The music is really about the land, and our connections to it and each other.”

However, the lively musical was not one that Boelk decided on overnight.

“When a friend first suggested it to me, I thought, ‘That’s an old, Podunk, hick musical that every little Podunk theater does, no way,” Boelk said. “But then something strange started happening and the music [from “Oklahoma!”] started popping up everywhere.”

One day, Boelk was out working in her garden when she just starting singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” Then, while watching a movie, she heard “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” another classic hit.

“At that point, I figured I better just go out and buy the CD,” she said. “While listening to it, I couldn’t believe how incredible the energy was. I was driving down the highway, listening to the song “Oklahoma!” and the energy was so incredible I almost went off the road. At that point, I knew that this was the musical we had to do.”

Apparently, those on Broadway had the same idea, as the play reopened there after a lengthy hiatus, late in March.

At rehearsal, it’s obvious that the cast is have a great time with their roles. While boys clad in flannel and oversized cowboy hats practice their drawls, girls twirl around in their floral, “Little House on the Prairie”-style dresses.

“Of the last six or so musicals that I’ve seen at Truckee High, I think this year’s is going to be one of the best,” said senior Blythe Marshman, playing the role of Aunt Eller. “It’s funny, dramatic D it has so many elements to it. Plus, we’ve got a really great cast that’s going to make it fun for the audience.”

This year’s play also features for the first time, a couple of ballet numbers with two girls on toe.

TTHS head custodian and cast member Dow Higginbotham, the sole non-student, said the audience won’t believe how talented these students are.

“Working with the kids has been absolutely awesome,” said Higginbotham, who’s been in almost every musical since 1994.

“The great thing is that every year, someone new gets to shine, like this guy,” he said, throwing an arm around Richard Hess, who will be playing Will Parker in one of the leading male roles. “You’re going to see this kid in movies someday.”

Hess encourages people to come out and see the show.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s a great little piece of American history,” Hess said.

The play also lends itself to vibrant costumes and a fun set, which was designed and built with thanks to the diligence and generosity of various community members and parents.

“Even people who no longer have kids at the high school have volunteered their time and services,” Boelk said. “These musicals have really become a community project in a way.”

And quite a project it is to pull off the annual show.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize just much hard work and discipline goes into these musicals,” Boelk said. “I’ve been talking to the cast a lot about the pride that comes from hard work, and in a way, all of this really relates to the themes in “Oklahoma!” Like our ancestors who worked so hard to settle this land and gained so much pride, these kids, too, can gain that kind of feeling from their efforts.”

“Oklahoma!” will run May 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18. Doors of the TTHS auditorium open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7 p.m. A special matinee performance will be held on Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at the Tahoe-Truckee High School Library and Four Seasons Flowers and Gifts. Prices are $12 for adults and $6 for students. There will be reserved seating again this year. For more information call 530-582-2607.

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