Corrections or additions?

This article by Anne Rivera was prepared for the August 18, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Preview: ‘Oklahoma!"

Kitty Getlik relinquished her role as general manger of the Open Air

Theater at Washington Crossing State Park this year in order to put

all her energies into acting. "It’s pretty hard to be the general

manager and to act in a production at the same time," she explains in

a recent telephone interview, "and I really love to act!"

Getlik will appear as "Aunt Eller" in the Stars in the Park production

of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!" opening Thursday, August 19.

Her love for the musical started when she was six. "I had a teacher in

first grade in Philadelphia who used to sing ‘Oh, What a Beautiful

Morning!’ – every morning," Getlik recalled. "Now I’ve come full

circle."

Born in Philadelphia, Getlik graduated from Temple with a bachelor’s

in communications and theater. "I always wanted to be an actress," she

says. "When I was seven, my mother built me my own backyard theater.

We put on show with the neighborhood kids and sold lemonade." Despite

a passion for the stage, Getlik had trouble getting parts. "I realized

that I was not a type and it’s difficult to get cast when you’re not a

type," she says. "I decided to learn technical theater and wait for

the good, old lady roles when I was older."

A familiar name in New Jersey’s community theater world, Getlik has

managed the Open Air Theater for 20 years. She is also artistic

director and manager of the Kelsey Theater at Mercer College, with

which she has been associated for 26 years. A number of Open Air

Theater performers have appeared on the Kelsey stage – and vice versa

– thanks to Getlik.

Stars in the Park, in fact, presents "Nun-Sense" at Kelsey in the

spring. A relatively new group, Stars in the Park includes members

from several community theater groups that perform in the park. "They

banded together three years ago," Getlik explains, "to produce a real

quality show – and have stayed together." The troupe includes a number

of professionally-trained actors, dancers, and singers. "Oklahoma!"

will be its third production.

While Getlik decided that she had to give up role as general manager

at Washington Crossing to devote more time to her 10-year-old

daughter, Jessica, she is thoroughly enjoying acting there.

Speaking about her current role, Getlik says, "What I like about Aunt

Eller is that she represents all the women who kept – and keep – this

country going."

"Oklahoma!" is set in the early 1900s in Indian Territory that became

part of the state of Oklahoma. Aunt Eller runs a farm, takes care of

her niece Laurey (played by Melanie Snyder), and manages the hired

hands. Hers is a voice of reason when events start to spin out of

control.

"Aunt Eller is not Laurey’s mother," Getlik says. "We never know what

happened to her parents. It was hard times in the Territory; and

probably they were killed or died of starvation."

Getlik summarizes the plot. "Boy meets girl; pretends not to like her.

She pretends not to like him, but they really do like each other. They

almost lose each other." The action revolves around a box-social. The

burning question is who will take Laurey to the party. She favors

Curly, a handsome cowboy, (played by Carnegie Center attorney William

Pessel), but becomes angry when she discovers that he can’t keep his

promise to drive her to the party in "The Surrey with the Fringe on

Top."

To make Curly jealous, she decides instead to go with Jud Fry (played

by Kevin Gallagher), a violent hired hand on Aunt Eller’s farm, whom

Laurey actually fears. Curly finds out and announces he is going with

someone else too.

Laurey and Curly eventually decide to go to the social together, but

to be discreet so the neighbors won’t gossip ("People Will Say We’re

in Love").

At the social, men bid for the picnic lunches packed by the women.

Curly sells everything he owns to get Laurey’s. All seems to be going

well until Jud crashes Curly’s and Laurey’s marriage reception three

weeks later and threatens Curly with a knife. In the fight that

follows, Jud falls on the knife – and dies. Judge Andrew Carnes

(played by Ray Pental) acquits Curly in a hasty trial; and the couple

departs on their honeymoon. ("Oklahoma!")

"This show is like the classic musical of the 1950s," Getlik pointed

out. "The structure is balanced between full-scale musical numbers and

the small solo."

The first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein,

it opened in New York in March, 1943. It was one of the first musical

comedies to include a plot, musical score, and dances.

Before the show opened, there were dire predictions that "Oklahoma!"

would be a complete failure. "No Girls, No Gags, No Chance," was the

report from out-of-town scouts. Instead, "Oklahoma!" ran for five

years and nine months on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama

in 1944.

In addition to inventive lyrics and infectious music "Oklahoma!" is

also a depiction of life on the frontier in the early 1900s. "Rivalry

between ranchers and farmers was a real issue in the West," Getlik

says. "The Farmer and the Cowman," sung at the box social, contains

these lines:

"Territory folks should stick together,

"Territory folks should all be pals,

"Cowboys, dance with the farmers’ daughters!

"Farmers, dance with the ranchers’ gals!"

The cast has been rehearsing at Kelsey for the last three months. For

the past month, according to Getlik, "the guys have all been

rehearsing in cowboy boots to break them in for the dance."

Whether you consider this show a social commentary, a light-hearted

musical, or a bit of both, Getlik promises, "The Open Air Theater is

beautiful and family-friendly; the costumes are fantastic; and you’ll

leave singing a song!"

– Anne Rivera

Oklahoma! Open Air Theater at Washington Crossing State

Park, Titusville. August 19 to 21 and August 25 to 28. $4-$8,

Wednesday to Friday; $9-$10, Saturday. 8 p.m. 609-737-1826.

e

Park, Titusville. August 19 to 21 and August 25 to 28. $4-$8,

Wednesday to Friday; $9-$10, Saturday. 8 p.m. 609-737-1826.


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