Theater Review
Youth production of Oklahoma! opens to full house at Near West Theatre

by  Maggie Antone

(Plain Press, September 2005) On Friday, July 22, the young adults of the Near West Theatre opened their production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! to a full house. Some families and fans of the 13 to 19- year-old cast members brought flowers and signs to support their favorite performers and/or relatives.  

In portraying Laurey, Kelly Pekar brought a strong singing voice and superb acting. Her co-star, Jonathan Ramos, played Curly effortlessly.  Other performers deserving accolades are William Roger Conners as Ali Hakim and Michelle Olszewski as Ado Annie Carnes, both of whom had the crowd laughing with their wit and comic timing.  Molly Andrews-Hinders as Aunt Eller and Steven Berg as Jud Fry also complemented and interacted with lead characters especially well.

Dance numbers, which were choreographed by Near West Theatre executive director Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek (along with assistants Kristy Cruz and Sarah Morrison), helped draw the audience into the show. Musical director Bob Navis, Jr. accompanied a group of versatile performers on piano. Like much of the crew behind the scenes of the production, the Oklahoma! ensemble was comprised of volunteer musicians.

Considering that the performers of the production were in their teens and many audience members were even younger, the Near West Theatre’s latest presentation could have gone without faux smoking and drinking and some sexual connotations.  While Oklahoma! contains some sexuality and consumption of alcohol, they could have easily been omitted without  impacting the overall story.

Helping to make this production possible was the volunteer efforts of parents, community members, and others. As with all shows conducted by Near West Theatre, participants are provided a venue in which they may constructively utilize their talents and further their abilities.

For more information about show times, becoming a sponsor, volunteering, or performing with the Near West Theatre, please call (216) 621-1919 or visit  


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