I quickly washed my hair in the girl’s dorm shower and wiped my ‘80’s makeup off my face as Jinny and I rushed to get ready for our Sophomore Culture event. Many members from the class of 2014 assembled for a dinner of a wide variety of pizzas before rushing onto two yellow school buses that were headed to the Armory to attend a showing of Oklahoma...Portland Center Stage gathered a cast of all African-Americans (with an exception for one Borat-looking Persian) for this All-American musical because in the 19th century (the time period of the show) there were about 50 African-American towns. The usual all-Caucasian casting in Oklahoma productions was not carried through with this unique showing because in the 1800’s, one out of three cowboys was Black, so it was appropriate and fair for this talented cast to shine light upon an African-American version of this classic musical.
Though I call this musical a ‘classic’ I admit, before our trip to the show, I had no idea what the plot line was or even what songs were from it but once the theater lights dimmed it soon became clear that there was a romantic baseline mixed in with a slightly violent and sexual side to the story. The romance in the play consists of two love triangles, one of which is between a rugged farmer’s daughter, a chivalrous cowboy, and a perverted farm worker. The other is between a flamboyant and fickle lady, a Persian peddler, and another chivalrous cowboy. I won’t give the ending away but you can take a guess which man wins over the lady.
The conductor’s balding head bobbed up and down from the pit as he vigorously lead the band to accompany the actors’ songs and dances, which consisted of many twirls, kicks and jumps. I recalled 6th grade when I was trying to learn my Japanese Katakana characters. During that time, my teacher said that the character which creates the sound ‘oh’（オ） looks like the dancing actors in ‘Oh’klahoma. As I watched the dance portions of this play, I couldn’t help but grin and think that my 6th grade Japanese teacher was right . The actors often did have their arms wide open and had a leg kicked out like the Katakana character.
Not only was each character a stellar actor, singer and dancer, but the backdrops, props and lighting were exceptionally intriguing and set the tone of each scene perfectly.
The fact that the show dates were extended to November 6th and that the three rows that the Sophomores occupied were overall very attentive throughout the show is a good sign that this production is a good one!