Rie Ogura and Joshua Andino Nieto as Laurie and Curly in the "dream ballet."
Anyone in the Boston area who cares about musical theatre will want to be one place this weekend: in the auditorium at Waltham High School, where the Reagle Music Theatre will be presenting a kind of resurrection of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic Oklahoma!.
Reagle has always been known for an attitude that some have called a hide-bound reverence for tradition; the company aims to present musicals from Broadway's golden age (even Sondheim counts as edgy for them!) in as close a form as possible to the original. They even aim for the original, enormous cast sizes - to do so, Reagle generally brings in Broadway stars for the leads, but fills out the ranks with local community theatre types. (60 performers were listed in the program for Oklahoma!.)
Of course this is the kind of thing - a frank appreciation of masterpieces - that would give someone like Bob Brustein apoplexy. Which is why you should feel very sorry for him. Because I have to say that while I have often felt like slitting my wrists at an ART show, just so that I wouldn't have to endure one more second of their patented morbid, pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness (now, of course, I feel the same way, only to avoid their newly patented pseudo-intellectual crassness), I've never been really sorry that I saw a Reagle show.
Sure, often one of these Waltham productions will boast a great turn by its featured star, but will be a little sloppy around the edges. I admit it. But that's not the case with Oklahoma!, because Reagle has really done its homework this time - or rather has borrowed the homework of the University of North Carolina, which scrupulously re-produced (from archival photos, costume swaths, and surviving plans) the "look and feel" of the 1943 Broadway production for one of its student shows. Reagle has rented all of that material, and has also had the good sense to hire as choreographer the legendary Gemze de Lappe, who danced in that 1943 production and eventually became a kind of ambassador-at-large for the work of Agnes de Mille.