Oklahoma! at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, with outstanding singing, acting, dancing and production values. Director Elizabeth Stark and musical director Kristy Templet can be credited for making this an exemplary re-creation of the 1943 award-winning musical set in 1900s Indian Territory.
Templet holds to the original tempo and dynamics of Rodgers’ music with emphasis on clarity of diction. Stark zeroes in on characters' conflicting dreams and sharpens interpersonal relationships, particularly with Jonah D. Winston as Jud Fry.
Winston imbues the looked-down upon Jud with heart-wrenching humanity. I admit to gasping when Curley tossed the lasso over the rafter and suggested to Jud that he hang himself. The scene brought to mind images of lynching. From then on, everything changed in the way I saw the play, as stereotypes became real people.
Stark said during a phone interview that she did not set out to make a political statement or aim for shock value by portraying Jud in a revisionist way. "Jonah is a fine singer, actor and human being," she said. "As Jud he is playing counter to his own personality to show what brings an abusive person to that snapping moment.”