Marriott Theatre OKLAHOMA! Review – A Cowboy Ballet on the Plains

The sun is sweeping across the sepia toned flatlands of a newly charted United States territory. The year is 1906, the turn of the century, and newness is upon the land. This land is the plains of Oklahoma where all the characters hope for a bright, new future ahead of them. The only thing that’s not so new is OKLAHOMA! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. One of their classics from 1943, we’re taken back to a dusty, tumbleweed town.

Marriott Theatre’s Classic Love Story

Living in 1906 Oklahoma might sound boring with no internet, no phones, no televisions, but for our characters, life on the plains is anything but! There’s always work, a box hall social, and a love story right around the corner. For our protagonists Laurey and Curly, there’s an underlying romance but neither of them want to admit it!

But it seems like their romance might be dead before it even begins when Jud steps into the ring. Fraught with confusion and tough choices, OKLAHOMA! shows a snippet of life on the prairie.

Marriott Theatre OKLAHOMA
The cast of Oklahoma! Photo: Liz Lauren
Marriott Theatre OKLAHOMA
Jennie Sophia and Brandon Springman Photo: Liz Lauren

Actors Delve Deep

The cast of OKLAHOMA! have dug deep into their characters’ backstories and emotions. They’ve created more depth to these hardy folk than usually seen in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s surface level characters.

A surefire hit is Susan Moniz playing Aunt Eller who is both lovable and terrifying at the same time.

Our main couple Laurey and Curly played by Jennie Sophia and Brandon Springman are also delightful to watch. They have a chemistry that is filled with the right amount of romantic tension and playfulness.

Though the plot of OKLAHOMA! doesn’t bode well for the lone outsider, Jud, Shea Coffman does some fantastic character work. He’s more than just a villain; he shows us a different side of Jud is perhaps just misunderstood.

The rest of our ensemble is lively and adds color when they need to, especially in their big dance numbers.

Cowboy Ballet & Country Line Dancing

There is a lot of dancing in OKLAHOMA! that’s either a huge selling point to some or a hard pass for others. Just to give a taste, there’s a fifteen minute ballet sequence at the end of Act One. So if ballet is not your thing, this might seem gratuitously long.

But if you’re one who adores dance, the choreography by Alex Sanchez will leave you thrilled. Led by Benita Bünger as Dream Laurey, we are transported into the confusion of Laurey’s mind during this number.

In addition to the ballet, there are numerous other dances with the full cast, like a line dance at the social, that are jubilant and their energy on stage is infectious!

Marriott Theatre OKLAHOMA
Michelle Lauto and Aaron Umstead Photo: Liz Lauren

The Life is in the Details

Sweeping around the stage are strips of burlap which at first glance just serve to make the theatre more rustic. But once the lights go down, that burlap becomes a 360 view of the Oklahoma landscape with projections.

It’s a stunning effect designed by Anthony Churchill as the sun rises and sets and turns into a starry sky.

Marriott Theatre OKLAHOMA
Jennie Sophia Photo: Liz Lauren

Marriott Theatre’s OKLAHOMA! is the same show as it’s ever been, some theatre patrons remarking “it’s just like the movie.” For some, including this writer, the musical might feel dated and the plot doesn’t sit well in a modern context. OKLAHOMA! is a good pick for anyone who is absolutely in love with the classic musical and likes standard love stories. For theatre goers who don’t have an affinity for an older Rodgers and Hammerstein or are looking for something a bit less traditional, this show might not be for you.


Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.


Now through June 10, 2018
Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00pm shows
Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.


Marriott Theatre
10 Marriott Drive
Lincolnshire, IL 60069


$50 to $60
To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to the Ticketmaster website. Visit the Marriott Theatre website for more information.


Liz Lauren


Jennie Sophia

Brandon Springman

Susan Moniz

Shea Coffman

Michelle Lauto

Aaron Umsted

Evan Tyrone Martin

Terry Hamilton

Elizabeth Telford

Benita Bünger

Lucas Segovia

Brandon Block

Miranda Borkan

DeShawn Bowens

Nick Cosgrove

Maxwell J DeTogne

Alejandro Fonseca

Noah Gouldsmith

Autumn Hlava

Maya Lou Hlava

Johanna McKenzie Miller

Madison Piner

Zachary Porter

Ken Singleton

Kyra Sorce

Adrienne Storrs

Steven Strafford

Jessica Wolfrum


Aaron Thielen

Alex Sanchez

Ryan T. Nelson

Kevin Depinet

Anthony Churchill

Brian Hemesath

Jesse Klug

Robert E. Gilmartin

Sally Weiss

Patti Garwood


Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago

Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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