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'Oklahoma' sweeps onto stage
Tight-knit cast shines in musical at the Playhouse
Oklahoma 7

“Oklahoma” began a four-week run at the Cumming Playhouse on Thursday.

The musical, presented locally by Pie in the Sky Productions, centers on the rivalry between Curly and Jud, who are both in love with Laurey. Set in the early 1900s, it also features characters such as Will and Ali Hakim, who have a second rivalry fueled by their mutual affection for Ado Annie.

Leigh Ann Cannady, the producer and musical director, and Colleen Quigley, director, both have experience with the show.

“Oklahoma” was the first musical in which Cannady performed during high school, and Quigley directed another production of the show 15 years ago at the Holly Theatre in Dahlonega. The women have been friends and working together for more than a decade.

Laura Beth Hettinger, who plays Laurey, has been involved with theater for 24 years.

“I have a degree in musical theater and a master’s in theater education, and I teach theater at Cartersville High School,” Hettinger said. “All I do is theater.”

She has always loved “Oklahoma,” especially the character of Laurey, so driving from Cartersville for rehearsal has been worth the experience.

“[Laurey] is my dream role. I’ve always wanted to play Laurey since I was a little kid, so I was very excited,” she said.

The show features several musical numbers, which are Hettinger’s favorite parts. “The spectrum of music, it goes from really touching to really goofy to terrifying,” she said.

Cumming resident Michael Arens, who plays Curly, has been involved in theater for nearly 40 years. He played Jed in Quigley’s previous production of “Oklahoma.”

The show realistically portrays turn-of-the-century Oklahoma, according to Arens.

“[Quigley] is doing it more in a natural sort of style … trying to be more realistic with it, more muted natural clothes, just being more aware of the time period and the realism of the Oklahoma territory,” he said.

The cast is tight knit, Cannady said, because many of the actors know her and Quigley from previous shows or from Cannady’s Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts.

“The cast is made up of the most kind, thoughtful, hardworking people in our community and we’ve loved getting to spend our summer with them,” Cannady said.

The show also features many local teenagers, with every Forsyth County high school represented. Quigley said the students enjoy gaining experience from shows at the Cumming Playhouse.

“It’s fun for this summer when they get to come in here. It’s right here, where they live,” she said.

Cannady, who lives in Cumming, enjoys working on shows at the Playhouse. “It’s such a beautiful space and the staff are so accommodating and the audiences are so gracious,” she said.

To Cannady, the biggest challenge facing her and Quigley was maintaining the intimate, personal environment of the playhouse with the music and dance of the show.

“I think the biggest challenge has been taking a really big Rodgers and Hammerstein show and scaling it down to where it feels intimate with a smaller cast and in a smaller space,” she said.

Audiences at the show, which runs Thursday through Sunday until Aug. 3, should expect to “feel every emotion that they have,” Hettinger said.

“It’s a good time. You get your happy ending,” she added.