ILWACO - With colorful costumes, a different venue and stirring chorale numbers, "Oklahoma!" could be the Peninsula Players best show yet.
This will be the first musical production the group has tackled in their year of existence. They still have many of the same actors from past productions taking part, it's just that this time around they are being asked to use their voices in a slightly different way.
"It's been harder, but they seem to be doing well with it. It's a completely different thing when you do a musical because you have to coordinate the singing with the music with the acting and set changes."
Director Bob Lindberg said the actors all seem to be enjoying it, regardless of whether they can sing well or not.
"And that's the whole idea of the Peninsula Players, is to have fun."
As with many musicals, "Oklahoma!" has a big cast, 22 actors in all, which helps with the many musical numbers of the show, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, including the famous theme song, as well as "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," and "Surrey with a Fringe on Top."
The show stars Everett Pace as Curly and Brianne Emry as his beloved Laury, who is being sought after not only by Curly but also by Jud, played by Ed Ahlers. Pace, after doing a fine job as supporting actor in two other Peninsula Players productions, is taking on the leading role for the first time.
"Everett has really progressed as an actor," said Lindberg of Pace. "He's enjoying it a lot. He's a very serious actor and so he spends time on his role and analyzes it and is doing a very good job."
Pace said it feels good to be the leading man this time around, though he said he is approaching it no differently then he would if it were a lesser part.
"Not at all. Just learn your lines, do the best you can, get up there and do it."
Pace said the only real difference for him is the fact that the show is a musical. This is not a problem for him though, as Pace is an experienced singer in his own right.
"I've never done a musical before. I write my own music, sing songs, but nothing like a musical up on stage. That's pretty new to me."
And while Pace has been an active part of the Peninsula Players, this show will be Emry's first with the theater company - but she is no rookie. Emry has a lengthy experience in musical productions.
"She worked for Disney World on stage and has been in a number of musicals in high school and since. She's quite good."
Pace said called Emry "an incredible singer, and incredibly good actor, and it makes it easier for me. I can't stress it enough, that we are so blessed to have Brianne here for this production."
Emry is currently staying with a local relative while saving money to return to college and happened upon a flier announcing try-outs for the show, one which she has wanted to play for some time.
"This is like a dream come true. I've always wanted to play Laury," said Emry, who has been in around a dozen musicals. "I grew up listening to musicals, so this is awesome."
Emry said the singing and acting come very naturally for her.
"It's definitely something I grew up doing, but it's still a lot of work."
And the musical numbers of the play are not just sung by the chorus, in fact Emry and Pace share a duet on "People Will Say We're in Love." Pace also begins the show by singing "Oh, what a Beautiful Morning" while walking through the audience.
"In my mind it's just like rehearsal. You're always nervous at first, but once that first note comes out, just go with it," he said.
"All the music in this show is just phenomenal when it's done right and I hope we'll do it justice," said Emry, who said she thinks they will. "The group numbers don't do as much harmony as the show writes for, but it is just a community theater, so we have to tone it down a bit. But I think everyone will be impressed."
This is the fifth show the Peninsulas Players have put on since forming early last year. Director Bob Lindberg said he sees the frequency of their shows continuing in the future.
"We keep real busy. We'll probably do four plays a year and a talent show."
The talent show was the first thing the group did as a fund-raiser when just starting out. They did not do one this year because Hilltop Auditorium is under construction. This situation had led them to put on their last two plays at the Masonic Lodge in Ilwaco. They have now moved on to the theater at the Bell Tower Inn, which has an actual stage and church bench seating.
"It's been a lot better because of the fact they we have been able to rehearse on stage and we've been able to have the set up early and got a feel of the auditorium. Otherwise we had to kind of go in the last minute to get a feel."
At the Masonic Lodge, a rented stage was set up on one end of the main hall with no backstage, so all entrances and exits were made through the audience. The same is true at the Bell Tower, a feature which Lindberg said he thinks brings the audience closer to the play.
"We're working with the audience more because we don't really have a choice. And in modern drama they do a lot more of that. So that's worked out fine."
Lindberg said that after doing a living Nativity scene at the Bell Tower during Christmas time, the owners suggested them doing a show in the theater. Lindberg said that since it was a bigger facility they jumped at the chance - this also was the source of inspiration for trying a musical play.
"It's a fun show, have fun!" Emry said in encouraging the public to come out to the show.
"Oklahoma!" opens this Friday, March 24 and runs through Sunday April 2.
Curly Everett Pace
Laury Brianne Emry
Aunt Eiler Kristi Parsons
Ike William Brooks
Fred Michael Veland
Slim Richard Arp
Will Karl Johnson
Jud Ed Ahlers
Ado Annie Laurie Crowston
Peddler Mike Campelloni
Gertie Melissa Mc Leod
Carnes Clint Carter
Vivian Jeanine Miller
Ellen Breanna Hiatt
Kate Shirley Brooks
Virginia Laurie Hazen
Girl Debbie West
Girl Ashley Hiatt
Marshall Cord Donald Mead
Townsfolk Judy Burks, Michael Johnson, Marcia Rockwell
Director Robert Lindberg
Music Director Bud Runyon
Pianist David Manion
Producer Laurie Carter
Set Design Dean Mead