Hop in your ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top’ and head to MSS for Oklahoma! this week

M’CHIGEENG—Manitoulin Secondary School’s production of Oklahoma! runs this Thursday (February 12), Friday and Saturday, with the curtain lifting at 7 pm each night.

The big production boasts a cast of over 30 actors, including several students from Island elementary schools.

“The production is coming along really well,” said director Tom Scott during this past Sunday’s rehearsal. “It’s a great musical. It has so many things; romance, conflict, big dance numbers and big spectacles.”

Mr. Scott added that the cast had been doing a phenomenal job and had made the production ‘a must see.’

From what The Expositor saw on Sunday, Mr. Scott’s praise is well deserved.

Leads Lacey Fownes, who plays Laurey, and Max Chapman, who plays Curly, are sure to blow audiences away with their talent this week.

In her debut production, Grade 10 student Lacey Fownes proves that talent is a gift some people are just born with. Her beautiful voice and sweet stage presence makes her a natural fit for the character of Laurey.

Balancing Lacey is seasoned thespian Max Chapman. ‘Seasoned’ is not a word often used to describe a Grade 11 student, but Max has a lot of experience under his cowboy hat and the talent to match. He was with the Espanola Youth Theatre Company for four years, the Classic School of Dance for eight and played Erronius in last year’s MSS production, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.’

Oklahoma! was written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, ‘Green Grow the Lilacs.’

Set in Oklahoma, outside the town of Clarmore in 1906, the musical tells the story of Cowboy McLain (played by Max Chapman) and his romance with Laurey Williams (Lacey Fownes) and cowboy Will Parker (Brad Sayyae) and his fiancée Ado Annie (Taylor Van Horn).

Other leads include Jessica Jordison as Aunt Eller, James Scott as Jud Fry, Cody Crawford Peddler as Ali Hakim, Alex Godon as Gertie Cummings, Mackenzie Gilmore as Ike Skidmore, Grace Duncanson as Fed, Sam Middleton as Slim, Rebecca Dawson as Maggie Carnes and Liam Leblanc as Cord Elam.

It isn’t just the amazing talent of the entire cast that make MSS’ Oklahoma! such a great production, it’s also the set design (by Willa Wilson, assisted by Jordanna Dedman and Isaac Goose), light and sound (by Heather Theijsmeijer, assisted by Logan Murphy and Sean Patterson), producer (Yana Bauer), publicity and costuming (Jill Ferguson), stage manager Courtney Oswald, hair styling and makeup (community volunteer Dawn Dawson) and the incredible band led by Chris Theijsmeijer.

Interestingly, the band contains a mix of both MSS students and adult musicians including two musicians who have been utilizing technology to learn their parts.

“Joanne and Chris Thiessen are friends of ours from Ottawa,” explained Mr. Theijsmeijer. “They are both musicians and play music for a lot of musicals in Ottawa, one of them actually just finished playing in Tarzan last night. I asked them if they would be interested in being part of the band and they agreed and have been practicing with us via Google Hang Out (a real time video conferencing program). Joanne plays the clarinet and Chris, the trombone, but he will actually be playing the French horn part on trombone, which we converted (the sheet music).”

Mr. Theijsmeijer showed The Expositor how he set up Google Hang Out with the Ottawa musicians prior to Sunday’s rehearsal and even introduced the pair.

“There is a slight (video/sound) delay, so we don’t listen to them, but they hear us and play along during practice,” said Mr. Theijsmeijer. “It’s a first for us here at MSS, but it’s worked out well. They can see me conducting, play with us and understand their parts.”

Mr. and Ms. Thiessen will be playing with the MSS band in person for the first time at this Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, but will have an extra band practice prior to opening night Thursday.

“The production is going be really great,” said Lacey, encouraging Islanders to come out to Oklahoma! “The whole cast is really into it and has been working so hard. We are excited and people should be excited to check it out.”

“It really is a big musical,” added co-star Max, “and it is very entertaining. There isn’t a lot of opportunity to enjoy musical theatre on the Island, so take advantage!”

Oklahoma! is on this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (a great Valentine’s Day activity) at 7 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. They are available at the door or at Robertson’s IDA in Gore Bay or at the Guardian Pharmacy in Mindemoya, Little Current and Manitowaning.