'Oklahoma!' opens April 5

"Oklahoma" cast members

From left to right, seniors Michael Madison and Morgan Darrow portray the title roles of Curly and Laurey in a production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical, "Oklahoma!" Photo by James Tener.

Seventy-five years after its Broadway debut, "Oklahoma!" takes the Fisher Theater stage for ISU Theatre's annual collaboration with the music department. The musical was the first of many classic hits written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

The two-act production features an extensive cast of actors, singers, dancers and musicians. Brad Dell, associate professor of theatre and the show's director, said about 70 students involved in the shows, with 30 to 40 more who worked on sets and costumes.

"It's really an incredible student footprint involved in this production. Majors from all over the university are involved," Dell said. "Doing a show like this really does become a mountain-top experience for so many of the students during their time here at Iowa State."

In the musical's story, love ups the ante in the rivalry between farmers and cowboys living in 1906 Oklahoma. Although secretly in love with a cowboy named Curly (senior Michael Madison), Laurey (senior Morgan Darrow) fears the realization of an ominous dream if she reneges on plans to attend a town social with Jud (senior Nolan Brown), the farmhand.

Meanwhile, Will (sophomore Lincoln Klopfenstein) returns to town with his steer-roping winnings and plans to marry Ado Annie (senior Angelica Elkema). Unfortunately, the charm of traveling salesman Ali Hakim (senior Christopher Culver) has caught the interest of both Ado Annie and her father, Judge Carnes (senior Andrew Kille Smith).

Dell said some aspects of this production were influenced by current social and political events. Pointing to its representation of the "American spirit" during World War II, he said "Oklahoma!" could inspire audiences in new ways today.

"In light of all the political unrest and squabbling in every direction, how can we be like the characters in this play and work as a community to make the world a better place -- which is what I think is ultimately happening in this show, " Dell said.

"Probably the main reason Oklahoma! was so popular at the time is that it is so hugely and wildly entertaining. I think this production certainly is, as well," Dell said. "But I hope it also becomes a production that is inspiring and thought-provoking."

"Oklahoma!" opens its four-date run on Thursday, April 5. Show times are 7:30 p.m. April 5-7, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 8. Tickets are $25 ($16 for students), available through Ticketmaster and the Stephens ticket office. Dell said limited seating remains, but tickets still are available for each show.