Music theater, UCO meet for an extramarital affair in 'Promises, Promises'

The University of Central Oklahoma's Music Theatre Department presents "Promises, Promises," a lively comedy written by Neil Simon based on the 1960 Academy Award-winning movie "The Apartment."

"Promises" tells the story of a naive, but ambitious young executive named Chuck Baxter, who finds that the key to his success is the key to his apartment. When some of the married executives discover that he's a bachelor with a place of his own, they convince him to let them use the pad for their extramarital liaisons, resulting in work promotions and a guilty conscience. Chuck has to find a way to set things right with his bosses while also pursuing the love of a co-worker.

"Promises" is performed in a cabaret style at Edmond's UCO Jazz Lab, due to the ongoing restoration of the Mitchell Hall Theatre on campus. The smaller space at the Jazz Lab created several production challenges, including set design and staging.

"'Promises' was chosen because it could be done with fewer sets, while still doing justice to the production," said director Billie Thrash, head of UCO's Music Theatre program. She added that despite the smaller space, it will be a full-blown musical with sets, costumes, choreography, live music and a full cast.

Thrash said that Simon's involvement guarantees that the musical will deliver on laughs, but "Promises" is known for its unique music, written by Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David, including the hit "I'll Never Fall in Love Again."

"Promises" was actually the first musical that Thrash saw on Broadway. She would later build a friendship with one of the stars of that original production, Donna McKechnie, while the pair worked together in a production of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies." The Tony Award-winning McKechnie, best known for her role as Cassie in "A Chorus Line," recently traveled to UCO to teach master classes in voice and dance and took time to coach the students involved with the university's "Promises" production.

Thrash said that McKechnie, who has had a successful career beyond Broadway "? doing regional theater, television and live concerts "? encouraged the students to be open to pursuing a more diverse career path that would lead to more opportunities.

Because "Promises" is set during the late 1960s, the actors worked to embody the spirit of the time as reflected in the play.

"One of the difficulties, always, with young people is depicting a life in a time in which they weren't born yet," Thrash said. "But they have really done their background research and they're really getting the style and the feel of the show. It's what good actors do. They manage to embrace different times other than the one they're most familiar with." 

"?Eric Webb

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