Lyric Theatre's new season starts June 23 

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The groundbreaking Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! redefined musical theater when it first appeared on Broadway in 1943. Even those who have never set foot on the red earth of the Sooner state have likely heard the catchy lyrics to the title song.

Now, Lyric Theater is bringing Oklahoma! back to life as it kicks off the 2015 summer season. Oklahoma! runs June 23 through June 27 at Civic Center Music Hall.

Lyric’s artistic director Michael Baron is directing the new production of the classic musical.

“I was in the show when I was 19 in Orlando, Florida, and still have fond memories of this historic show,” Baron said.

Most artists in musical theater will at some point be a part of Oklahoma! But there are many special reasons for doing the show at Lyric this summer.

“It is often considered the first American musical and was the first show Lyric ever produced in 1963,” Baron added. “It started our journey as a landmark institution for producing musical theater. It is not only one of the greatest musicals of all time, but it speaks to everyone in our state in a special way. It tells the story of who we are and why we are here in this beautiful area of the country. Plus, it’s a rare event when a musical’s title song is also the state song. Affection for the show is already built in when done in our state. Most importantly, it’s a story and work of art that Oklahomans can be proud of around the world and deserves the inspiring production Lyric is able to deliver.”

Oklahoma native Christopher Rice returns to Lyric for the first time in several years in the role of Will Parker.

He says Oklahoma! is one of the first movie musicals he remembers watching as a kid.

“Lyric is where I made my professional debut around age 10,” Rice said. “To come back to that stage and have the chance to perform the musical that really started it all for me feels very full-circle. This homecoming is something very special for me.”

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More music

In addition to Oklahoma!, other shows during Lyric’s summer run include Mary Poppins, which runs July 7 through July 11.

It stars another Oklahoma native, Lindsie VanWinkle, in the role of everyone’s favorite nanny.

“I am so excited to come home,” VanWinkle said. “For me, it will be about having fun, playing with the wonderful actors surrounding me and bringing to life the vision of our director and choreographer. Plus, I get to sing a duet with my mentor from the University of Central Oklahoma, Dr. Marilyn Govich [Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins]. I could just die happy on that stage.”

Later in the month, Big Fish runs from July 21 to July 25.

It is a story of larger-than-life tales as a father tries to reconcile with his son.

Finally, Billy Elliot, the young boy whose talent and drive inspires his entire community, will dance on the Civic Center stage August 4 through August 8.

Putting together each show takes a small army. Choreographers, set designers and costumers all work behind the scenes to make each show a memorable production.

Jeffrey Meek has long been Lyric’s resident costume designer and said his work begins with a simple reading of the script.

“Long before fabric is ever bought and designs are drawn, there are several readings of the play and meetings with the directors,” Meek said. “I must decide how I want to convey the story through clothing. Every character has a specific trait that can be enhanced by how they look.”

After many meetings with directors and fellow designers, Meek said it is time to start the design process.

That includes sketches of the designs, which he said are important when dealing with a nontraditional production.

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“Because of the brisk time schedule at Lyric, my best designs appear on cocktail napkins and the back of envelopes,” he said.  “I then shop for fabrics and materials. Once in the costume shop, patterns are made and fabrics are cut and passed out to a very talented group of stitchers that create the garments.”

A large show at Lyric can take anywhere from four to six months to construct once it arrives in the shop. After the garments are made, Meek said, actors are fit and alterations are made.

If all goes as planned, the costumes arrive at the theater for one of only two dress rehearsals before the public gets to see them.

“Each costume takes a large crew of stitchers, craft people, wig designers, hair stylists and dressers to get to opening night,” Meek said. “Each costume tells a story — not only the story of the characters on stage but the story of countless hours of work and love that created it.”

Print headline: Summer stars, Oklahoma! opens Lyric Theatre’s new season.

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