Arena Stage begins a new life in its renovated home at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest D.C., opening its inaugural season with a classic American musical that similarly embraces life on a new frontier. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! is the first production at the Mead Center and features an all-star cast under the direction of Artistic Director Molly Smith. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! runs October 22-December 26, 2010 in the Fichandler Stage. There is already buzz of a Broadway transfer surrounding the show. Click below to see Oklahoma! onstage at Arena.
Inspired by the toughness of the prairie, Smith sets her production in the robust world of territory life filled with a dynamic cast as rich and complex as the tapestry of America itself. D.C. area favorite E. Faye Butler (Arena Stage's Crowns, Ain't Misbehavin') stars as Aunt Eller, with Valisia LeKae (Broadway's Ragtime, 110 in the Shade) as Laurey, Aaron Ramey (Broadway's Curtains, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Jud and Nicholas Rodriguez (Broadway's Tarzan) as Curly, who played Fabrizio last season in The Light in the Piazza, also directed by Smith. Cody Williams makes his Arena Stage debut as Will Parker alongside June Schreiner as Ado Annie Carnes, a high school junior at The Madeira School in McLean, VA, who was discovered in last summer's Arena Stage Academy Musical Theater Training Company. With Rodgers and Hammerstein's timeless music, Smith's Oklahoma! celebrates the vigor of America's pioneering spirit with athletic dance and boot-stomping energy.
As the first modern musical to use music and dance as an integral part of the plot, Smith's Oklahoma! is also a collaboration between Music Director George Fulginiti-Shakar and Choreographer Parker Esse.
Further complimenting the production, Smith has commissioned Tony Award-winning designers Eugene Lee and Martin Pakledinaz to develop dynamic sets and costumes respectively that bring the rough-hewn Oklahoma to life.
The Cast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!:
E. Faye Butler (Aunt Eller)'s previous Arena Stage productions include: Crowns, Ain't Misbehavin', Polk County and Dinah Was. Other D.C. Metro: Gospel According to Fishman, Saving Aimee (Signature); Take Joy (Strathmore); The Great Gatsby, Moon Until June (Washington Ballet at Kennedy Center). Regional credits include: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Once on This Island, Caroline, or Change, Trouble in Mind (CenterStage); Crumbs from the Table of Joy (Steppenwolf); Christmas Carol, Purlie (Goodman); The Wiz (La Jolla). National Tours: Dinah Was, Mamma Mia!, Ain't Misbehavin', Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope, Nunsense, Nunsense 2. Recently Ms. Butler released her CD Circle of Firsts and has a cabaret act, Just in Time, which travels around the country. Ms. Butler has been honored with several awards: Helen Hayes, John Barrymore, six Joseph Jefferson, three Black Theater Alliance, Ovation, Excellence in the Arts, After Dark.
Eleasha Gamble (Laurey)'s Arena Stage credits include the The Women of Brewster Place. D.C. AREA: Signature: Chess, First You Dream, Les Misérables (Helen Hayes Award Winner, Best Ensemble), Into the Woods, My Fair Lady, Urinetown, Follies, Grand Hotel, Gospel According to Fishman, The Christmas Carol Rag, The Rink, Company; Ford's: Civil War (Helen Hayes Award Winner, Outstanding Supporting Actress), Little Shop Of Horrors, A Christmas Carol, Meet John Doe; Kennedy Center: Broadway: Three Generations; Round House: Once On This Island (Helen Hayes nomination); Toby's: Ragtime (Helen Hayes nomination). OFF-BROADWAY: Zipper Theatre: Under the Bridge. REGIONAL: ALLIANCE THEATRE: The Women of Brewster Place; Perseverance Theatre: Hair. CABARET: Partial Eclipse, Ebony & Ivory. RECORDINGS: Euan Morton's New Clear. EDUCATION: Catholic University.