Press Room

Lyric Opera of Chicago announces Oklahoma! cast

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s general director Anthony Freud today announced the principal casting and production team for the company premiere and new production of Oklahoma! to be presented in May 2013.  Broadway stars John Cudia (Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables) and Ashley Brown (Disney’s Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast) will portray Curly and Laurey, respectively.  Featured performers include David Adam Moore as Jud, Jenn Gambatese as Ado Annie, and Curtis Holbrook as Will Parker.  Gary Griffin is the director, and James Lowe will conduct the sixteen performances at Lyric’s Civic Opera House in Chicago, May 4 through 19. 
“This Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II – their debut collaboration – marks its 70th anniversary in 2013 and is one of the greatest American musical stage works,” Freud noted. “We are delighted to have Oklahoma! make its Lyric Opera debut in a new production by Gary Griffin as part of Lyric’s American Musical Theater Initiative. We are also excited to have assembled a first-rate cast and production for this company premiere.”
Premiered on Broadway in 1943, Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It ran for 2,243 performances with many songs becoming American classics, including “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” and “Surrey With The Fringe On Top.” Based on Lynn Riggs‘ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, the story is set in the Oklahoma Territory of 1906.
Freud noted that 37 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra will perform the original orchestration. The production will feature a 24-person singer-dancer ensemble, plus three solo dancers. “When Lyric’s Show Boat opened last year, critics and audiences were bowled over by the sound of a world-class opera orchestra and chorus interpreting the score,” Freud said. “Oklahoma! will be no different, with all the musical richness and nuance that its composer and its orchestrator had envisioned.”
Among the additional principal cast are Paula Scrofano as Aunt Eller, Usman Ally as Ali Hakim, Matt DeCaro as Andrew Carnes, and Andrea Prestinario as Gertie Cummings. Previously announced members of the production team include set designer John Lee Beatty (debut), costume designer Mara Blumenfeld, and lighting designer Christine BinderJill Walmsley Zager is English diction and dialect coach. Choreographer Gemze de Lappe and associate choreographer Victor Wisehart will set Agnes de Mille’s original choreography.
“I’m really excited about the company we’ve gathered for Oklahoma!” said director Griffin. “It includes many artists with whom I’ve worked for years in Chicago, along with Ashley Brown and John Cudia, who I’ve seen in Chicago productions of Show Boat, Mary Poppins, and Les Misérables. I’m excited to work with them both for the first time.”
Gary Griffin’s work as stage director at Lyric includes acclaimed new productions of The Merry Widow (2009-10) and The Mikado (2010-11). Griffin made his Broadway debut with a new production of The Color Purple in 2005, and has since directed several Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall. At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Ontario), Griffin has directed West Side Story, Camelot, Evita, and 42nd Street. Regional credits include work with The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Signature Theatre, and Hartford Stage. Griffin is associate artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where his recent triumphs include new productions of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George and Follies.  His Chicago credits with CST as well as with the Court Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Famous Door Theatre, and Pegasus Players have earned Griffin nine Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing. His London credits include Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse (Olivier Award-Outstanding Musical Production, Olivier Award nomination for Best Director).
About the principal cast for Lyric’s Oklahoma!
*Lyric Opera debut
*John Cudia (Curly McLain) is renowned for his Broadway triumphs as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Cudia is the only actor to have ever portrayed both the Phantom and Jean Valjean on Broadway. As of his most recent Broadway run in Phantom, he is only the 12th performer to play the role in 25 years. Cudia made his Broadway debut in Les Misérables and has performed some of the most famous roles in musical theater, including Lt. Cable/South Pacific, Tony/West Side Story, the title role/Jesus Christ Superstar, and Freddy Eynsford-Hill/My Fair Lady. In concert, Cudia has sung nationally as a featured soloist with “The Broadway Tenors” and with “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber,” the Orchestra of Saint Peter by the Sea, and the Omaha Symphony Orchestra.
Ashley Brown (Laurey Williams) returns to Lyric, having triumphed last season as Magnolia in the company’s premiere/new production of Show Boat. Brown originated the title role in Disney’s Mary Poppins on Broadway, portrayed Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and starred in the national tour of Disney’s On the Record. Brown has performed with the Boston Pops (Keith Lockhart, cond.), the New York Philharmonic (Marvin Hamlisch, cond.), the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at Disney Hall (John Mauceri, cond.), the Pittsburgh Symphony opposite Shirley Jones (Marvin Hamlisch, cond.), the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall (Steven Reineke, cond.), Cincinnati Pops (Erich Kunzel, cond.), the Fort Worth Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra opposite Josh Groban.
David Adam Moore (Jud Fry) has been heard on the stage of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala as Demetrius/A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Maximilian in Robert Carsen’s production of Candide (a role/production he reprised at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet). Additional credits include the title role/Billy Budd in Francesca Zambello’s production at the New Israeli Opera, Papageno/Die Zauberflöte at New York City Opera, Figaro/Il barbiere di Siviglia, Zurga/Les pêcheurs de perles, and Guglielmo/Così fan tutte – all at Seattle Opera; Marcello in La bohème at Pittsburgh Opera, and David T. Little’s Soldier Songs at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Just prior to his appearance in Oklahoma!, Moore will sing the role of Stanley Kowalski in Lyric’s “Student Night at the Opera” performance of Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
*Jenn Gambatese (Ado Annie) most recently concluded a successful run as Carrie Pipperidge/Carousel at Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut. She has starred on Broadway as Jane in Disney’s Tarzan: The Musical and Natalie in All Shook Up. She recorded the original albums of both these shows, as well as Hairspray, in which she created the role of Brenda and later played Penny Pingleton. Other Broadway credits include Is He Dead?, A Year with Frog and Toad, and Footloose.
*Curtis Holbrook (Will Parker) began his stage career as a dancer, and recently starred on Broadway as Sonny Malone in Xanadu. Other Broadway/Off-Broadway credits include Dean Hyde in All Shook Up, Action in the 2009 revival of West Side Story, Young Buddy in Follies, and the Frog in Frog Kiss. He appeared in the film Hairspray, and has played recurring roles on As the World Turns, All My Children, and NBC’s hit series Smash.
*Paula Scrofano (Aunt Eller) is one of Chicago’s most prolific leading ladies. She has appeared at the Goodman Theatre as Desiree/A Little Night Music; at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre as Norma Desmond/Sunset Boulevard, Signora Naccarelli/A Light in the Piazza, Eva Perón/Evita, and Miss Mona/Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; at Court Theatre as Gretta Conroy/James Joyce’s The Dead; title role/Mame at Candlelight Playhouse, and Rose/Gypsy at Theatre at the Center, to name a few.
*Usman Ally (Ali Hakim) starred as Vigneshwar Paduar in the Off-Broadway production The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage Theater. Chicago audiences have seen him as Dr. Hakan in Tranquility Woods at Steppenwolf Theatre, Menelik in The Last Act of Lilka Kadison at Lookingglass Theatre, and Ramzi in Celebrity Row at American Theater Company. He portrayed Mr. Naidu in Around the World in 80 Days at Kansas City Rep. Additional credits include the featured role of the Indian Doctor in the feature film Contagion and several guest-star and recurring roles on Damages and The Chicago Code.
*Matt DeCaro (Andrew Carnes) has recently appeared at the Goodman Theatre in Camino RealThe Play About the BabyRomanceHeartbreak HouseBoy Gets Girl, and Spinning Into Butter, among others. He reprised his roles in Spinning Into Butter and Boy Gets Girl for their New York productions at Lincoln Center Theater and Manhattan Theatre Club. Other credits include The Lieutenant of InishmoreTalley’s Folly, and Dinah Was at Northlight Theatre; Glengarry Glen RossPerfect MendacityMen of TortugaOur Lady of 121st Street, and Slaughterhouse-Five at Steppenwolf Theatre; and A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Mystery Cycle, and The House of Blue Leaves at Court Theatre. He has appeared on television in Curb Your EnthusiasmHouseCSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and The Office, as well as two seasons on Prison Break as Officer Geary.
*Andrea Prestinario (Gertie Cummings) received a Joseph Jefferson Award for her work as Violet in Side Show with Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. Other credits include Eliza Doolittle in Frank Galati’s production of My Fair Lady with Asolo Repertory (Sarasota, FL), Eliza/My Fair Lady at Paramount Theatre (Aurora), Louise/Gypsy at Drury Lane Oakbrook, Ariel/Footloose at Theatre at the Center (Munster, IN), Thea/Fiorello! at Timeline Theatre Company, and Daisy/How Can You Run With A Shell on Your Back at Marriott Theatre.
*James Lowe (Conductor) is renowned for his work in opera and musical theater. He served as music director and conductor of the 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, starring Sutton Foster and Joel Grey, and also conducted and coproduced the original cast recording. Additional conducting credits include Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men at Utah Opera, Rachel Portman’s The Little Prince (world premiere), CarmenLe nozze di FigaroDie Entführung aus dem Serail, and Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair – all at Houston Grand Opera; conducting performances of the Broadway revival of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone; music director and conductor, U. S. tour of the acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh/National Theatre production of My Fair Lady; and conducting the first national tour of Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza. Additionally, Lowe has served on the music staffs of New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Virginia Opera.
*Gemze de Lappe (Choreographer) worked very closely with Oklahoma!’s original choreographer Agnes de Mille, and was frequently partnered by de Mille’s favorite male dancer James Mitchell. She appeared in the original West End (London) and first national companies of Oklahoma!, dancing the iconic role of Laurey in the Dream Ballet. Additional Broadway credits include Simon of Legree in the original production of The King and I (also performed in the film version), Paint Your Wagon (Donaldson Award winner), Juno, and The American Dance Machine. Ms. de Lappe remains active as a choreographer and teacher, but is especially well known for reconstructing the work of legendary choreographers Agnes de Mille, Isadora Duncan, and Jerome Robbins. In 2007, she was awarded the Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre.
*Victor Wisehart (Associate Choreographer) is a magna cum laude graduate of The Boston Conservatory. An accomplished dancer and choreographer, Victor made his New York stage debut as Red in last season’s City Center Encores production of Pipe Dream (cast recording)his West End (London) debut as Diesel in West Side Story at the Sadlers Wells Theatre (Olivier nomination), and can currently be seen in Arena Stage’s production of My Fair Lady in Washington D.C.  Additional performing credits include the first national tour of Lincoln Center’s South Pacific (Buzz Adams), New Rhythm/My One and Only at Goodspeed Opera House (CT), and Dream Curly in Oklahoma! & Dreamgirls (starring Jennifer Holliday) at The Muny (St. Louis). Wisehart reproduced Christopher Gattelli’s choreography for Ogunquit Playhouse’s South Pacific and collaborated with Gemze de Lappe as the associate choreographer on Oklahoma! at The Muny (St. Louis), and again with Ms. de Lappe on Oklahoma! and Carousel at the Reagle Music Theatre (Boston).
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Oklahoma! is generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, The Negaunee Foundation, Northern Trust, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, and Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills.
May 4-19, 2013
Chicago, IL
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Civic Opera House
Oklahoma!  (Lyric Opera of Chicago Premiere / New Production)
Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics)
John Cudia (Curly); Ashley Brown (Laurey); David Adam Moore (Jud); Jenn Gambatese (Ado Annie); Curtis Holbrook (Will Parker)
Gary Griffin, director; John Lee Beatty, set designer; Mara Blumenfeld, costume designer; Christine Binder, lighting designer; Agnes de Mille, original choreography
16 performances:
May 4 (7:30pm), 5 (2pm), 8 (2pm & 7:30pm), 9 (8pm), 10 (7:30pm), 11 (2pm & 7:30pm), 12 (2pm), 15 (2pm & 7:30 pm), 16 (7:30pm), 17 (7:30pm), 18 (2pm & 7:30pm), 19 (2pm)
#          #          #
LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO press contacts:
Susan Mathieson Mayer
Alexandra Day: [email protected]; (312) 827-5939
Magda Krance: [email protected]; (312) 827-5924; (312) 206-5342
Jack Zimmerman: [email protected]; (312) 827-5925
© 21C Media Group, November 2012

Return to Press Room