Congratulations are due …

Congratulations are due …

By Bill Beard, Theater Critic

I have been a newspaper theater critic for more than 30 years and have always made it a policy not to review community, college or high school productions. But once in awhile, I happen to see a show that is outstanding enough within its genre that it deserves attention. This show was one of those occasions. I attended the opening night of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s old chestnut, Oklahoma!, presented by the high school at First Assembly Church at Spring Creek and Mulford.

It was stunning. It had all elements of musical theater excellence, at levels not often reached by such young amateurs, and with a balance that showed detailed attention to each and every element. This high level of accomplishment is due to the vision and work of the director, Jody Beach. Jody is well known and loved throughout the area for her much-in-demand Jody Beach Trio, whose recently released CD is terrific. But she is to be highly commended for her dedication to her teaching and development of young performers, whose product always surpasses our expectations and whose love and sincerity shines through every performance.

Beach has gathered a group of parents, friends and artists around her whose combined talent, devotion and labor lift this production to such a high level. The set, designed by Beach and built and painted by Steve and Ann Humphreys, is a realistic, life-size farmhouse and barns, with fence, hay bales and all. Costumes for some 36 female and 15 male singer-actor-dancers were perfectly executed by Becky Nelson and Kris Eckburg and crew. Lighting and sound each complemented the whole performance.

The director’s most important choice of colleagues was in her selection of the choreography team of Doug and Jill Beardsley, so well remembered for their superb dancing in last year’s Coronado production of Musicals II. These two exquisite dancers have proven once again that they are also wonderful “teachers of dance.” In this case, they have taken some 50 teen-age non-dancers and turned them into a troupe of enthusiastic musical performers. With the help of several dance-trained members of the ensemble, and especially with the marvelous dancing of leading lady, Sarah Humphreys, as Laurey, the overall dance performance was better than almost any high school work I have seen in the Stateline. Again, part of a terrific artistic team.

Miss Humphreys’ singing and acting were also excellent, and she was perfectly matched by the confident and charming performance of her leading man, Adam Layman, as the impetuous cowboy hero, Curley. Both of these performers show significant potential as future stage personalities, as do all of the actors playing the other major characters in this cast. Congratulations to Jody and the company! I only wish that the show could have been seen by all theater goers in Rockford.

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