East Carolina University students playing roles in the musical "Oklahoma!" are Jim Dadosky as Curly and Molly Deans as Laurey Williams. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Curly, Laurey and “Oklahoma!” coming to the ECU stage

By Rachel Castro
ECU News Services

A romance set in the Oklahoma territory in the early 20th century is hitting the stage this week at East Carolina University.

The ECU School of Theatre and Dance’s production of “Oklahoma!” will open Thursday and will run through Tuesday, Nov. 22. Director John Shearin and assistant director Andrew Britt, a musical theatre and professional acting senior from Smithfield, spearheaded the ECU production. They used Lynn Riggs’ “Green Grow the Lilacs,” the play on which the original musical is based, to draw inspiration for their adaptation.

“The characters in ‘Green Grow The Lilacs’ are more realistic and truthful to the hardships of living in the territory of Oklahoma in 1905. We have tried to instill the reality of all these hardships in the musical,” Britt said.

The ECU production tells the love story of a cowboy Curly, played by Jim Dadosky of Raleigh, and a farm girl Laurey, played by Molly Deans.
ECU senior Andrew Britt served as assistant director of the ECU production.

Senior theatre arts student Dadosky used “Green Grow The Lilacs” along with other materials to prepare for his second lead role on the ECU main stage.

“Since (Green Grow the Lilacs) has about twice the amount of dialogue as ‘Okahoma!’, it really helped give insight into the lives of these people we're portraying, and the heart of the play,” he said.

Dadosky also visited a horse stable with other members of the cast, met with ECU’s speech coach to work on dialect and even attempted to watch an old John Wayne Western. “Basically, it’s nonstop preparation,” he said.

The “Oklahoma!” cast is well acquainted with the long hours preparing for opening night. “The hours are from about 6:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. fives times a week, but sometimes we stay later,” said Deans, who is a musical theatre performance and musical theatre education major and is from Durham.

The original Broadway production written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II opened on March 31, 1943 and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. It triggered an onset of revivals, tours and even a 1955 Academy Award winning film adaptation of the musical.

“I’ve seen the movie so many times. I never thought as a kid, I’d be playing Laurey,” said Deans, who has her second female lead role at ECU in this musical. “Laurey is a complicated character. She has the emotional range of the Grand Canyon.”

This is not the first time Dadosky and Deans have worked together on the ECU stage. Last spring, they were in “The Jungle Book.”

“It's funny because I first met her playing her dad in ‘The Jungle Book.’ Developing the relationship we have together on stage has been fun. Laurie and Curly are always fighting or ‘egging’ each other on, when deep down they're really in love. It seems like a lot of people have been in that situation before, and it's fun to play off of her,” said Dadosky.

Assistant Director Britt, who has worked on 12 ECU main stage productions thus far, considers the ECU School of Theatre and Dance one of the hardest working departments throughout the whole campus.

“We are trained to work as professionals, not as students, and that is exactly the way everyone has worked on this production,” he said.

A student is never guaranteed a role, so both Deans and Dadosky are unsure as to whether they will act on the ECU stage after the closing of “Oklahoma!”. But for now, they and the rest of the cast are focused on opening night and on putting all of their long hours, voice and dance lessons and lack of sleep into producing a memorable show for the sold-out performances.

“The audience can expect a rich, exciting, and truthful production of ‘Oklahoma!’,” said Britt.  “As our director, John Shearin, said on the first day of rehearsal, ‘This is not your Grandmother’s production of ‘Oklahoma!’.”

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