UVU partner, Sundance Summer Theatre, showcases outdoor production of Oklahoma!

photo by Johnny Morris

Sundance Summer Theatre is currently showcasing Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”, a musical production full of stunning costume designs and choreography set against the pine trees surrounding the Sundance Mountain Resort.

The outdoor theatre, after being closed for several years, made its return in 2008 after resort founder, Robert Redford, wanted to re-emphasize live performance amongst beautiful Utah scenery. His redesign also included a renewed partnership with the Utah Valley University theater department.

The “Oklahoma!” storyline follows Curly McLain, a steadfast and stubborn cowboy who is adamantly after the hand of local farm girl Laurey Williams. Contention arises as the audience finds another suitor seeks after Laurey, antagonist and farm hand Jud Fry. The two rivals go after the girl of their dreams, while supporting characters Ado Annie and Will Parker hilariously bicker about going “all or nothing” in their own relationship.

Marking the 75th anniversary of “Oklahoma!”, the theatre’s production of the musical perfectly embodies the folk spirit of the original production while emphasizing the country storyline by performing on a stage surrounded by a backdrop of mountain ranges and a starry night sky.

While other performances in a theater could still do the musical justice, producing the show among actual grassy hills and perennial fields allows the audience to truly place themselves into the show and reconnect with classic American folk ideals and farm country roots.

One “Oklahoma!” cast member, Rachel Bigler, studied theatrical performance at UVU and is playing the role of the infamously promiscuous Ado Annie. Many other performers also have theater background at UVU, while some studied at BYU, and others travelled from across the country after submitting audition tapes.

Through grandiose vocals and acting, the cast members are able to accurately execute a romantic and southern performance with tenacity. The fact this production is set among the rolling green hills and lush forests around the resort truly emphasizes the theatrical experience of immersing the audience in the show.

Deseret News reporter, Heather Hayes, quotes UVU’s theater department chair and director, Lisa Hagen, who says, “It’s important for us to choose shows that take advantage of the natural space and play to the grandeur of the location… I love the sweeping, romantic music and the complex characterizations,” Hagen said. “I think the audiences who join us under the stars will be swept along as well.”

The theatre will perform shows until August 11 at the Sundance Mountain Resort. Although each show will depict the same storyline, performing in an outdoor setting allows each performance to be unique in depiction as it adapts to stormy skies and the idyllic scenery that encircles the stage.

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