Actors with the Sampson Community Theater (SCT) transported audiences back in time to Indian Territory in the spring of 1907 last weekend during their first performances of the Rogers and Hammerstein hit musical “Oklahoma!” With final performances coming up this weekend, the cast is excited to entertain more audiences yet again.
Leading the cast is Hailey Best of Goldsboro who playing the character of Laurey. A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts and Miss North Carolina 2011, Best is no stranger to the stage. She has participated in numerous theater productions — she has performed in “Oklahoma!” three times — and has experience in movies, on TV, and in commercials.
Although pursuing an acting career, Best shared that she is “just glad to be home for the summer and doing something that’s just for fun, just something for myself.”
The Sampson Community Theater’s production of “Oklahoma!” marks the second time that Best has played Laurey, a role that she loves bringing to life on stage.
“I play romantic leads a lot,” noted Best, explaining that her voice and physical features contribute to her landing those types of roles. “I like playing Laurey because she is fun and a little more feisty than most romantic leads. Most romantic leads can be coring but she gets to do more. She gets to be angry, sad, and bold at times. Plus, she’s kind of a tomboy at the beginning which is fun. I really get to use different facets of my talent (playing her).”
Best is also enjoying playing Laurey opposite such great local actors. “I didn’t know what to expect never having worked with SCT before but the talent is phenomenal. If people in Clinton don’t know about the kind of talent that’s there, they need to come and see this show. They’ll be blown away.”
One of those talented actors is Jake Matthews who plays Curly. “Oklahoma!” marks Matthews third show with the Sampson Community Theater. Previously, he played Captain Von Trapp in the theater’s production of “The Sound of Music” and portrayed Allen in “Come Blow Your Horn.”
Matthews shared that bringing to Curly, who he described as “cocky” and “full of himself” to life on stage can be a challenge. “It definitely takes me out of my comfort zone…It’s an opportunity for me to step away from my normal self.”
And Matthews is happy to take that step, pointing out many of his favorite moments in the play. “I enjoy the singing. I really like the song “Surrey with the fridge on top” because it’s the first time that Curly lets on that he’s interested in Laurey. It paints a picture through that song.”
“I also enjoy the interaction between my character and Laurey and Jud (played by Nick Owen),” Matthews added. “It’s a good plot line…and I like getting to pull a gun on Jud in the auction scene.”
Another member of the talented cast is Kathy Day who is a member of the Sampson Community Theater’s board and is no stranger to its stage. Previously, she played Miss Hannigan in the theater’s production of “Annie,” Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast,” and most recently Mrs. Pingleton in “Hairspray.”
In “Oklahoma!” Day is portraying Aunt Eller, a role she is reprising for a third time in a play that always brings back fond memories for her as it was the first play she did with the local theater when she and her family moved to Clinton in 13 years ago.
“It’s a real classic,” said Day, pointing out that the musical was first performed in 1943. “That it has lasted 60 years and had that kind of longevity is pretty amazing.”
Amazing is also how Day described her fellow castmates. “They have unbelievable voices,” she said, particularly about the play’s leads.”You couldn’t hear better voices if you went to Raleigh or Fayetteville…That’s one of the main highlights, the vocal talent.”
Although young and just in her first year of college at William Peace University, Logan Tart holds her own as Ado Annie. Like her castmates, Tart comes to the role with theater experience under her belt. “Oklahoma!” marks her thirteenth show with the Sampson Community Theater, and most recently, she played Glenda the Good Witch in the theater’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” and starred as Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray.”
The Harrells Christian Academy graduate shared that she auditioned for Ado Annie because “she’s my favorite character,” describing Annie as “light-hearted and giddy.”
“I love the story line (of the play). It’s just a good-hearted story and so funny,” said Tart, encouraging those who haven’t seen it to come out this weekend.
“It’s not just for women,” stressed Tart, noting that the story is populated with cowboys and farmers that men in the audience can identify with.
“There’s cowboys for the guys and the love story and the dream sequence for the girls,” agreed Best of the play’s mass appeal. “There’s also guns that are shot which is something that most people aren’t expecting. It’s just a show that makes you feel good…and who doesn’t love a love story?”
So far, many in the community have been loving it.
Of last weekend’s performances, Matthews shared that “they were great. We’ve had a good, active audience.”
“We really have an excellent cast and everyone fits their roles so well,” he continued. “It’s a show I wouldn’t miss if for nothing else because of the talent that’s there.”
“The audiences have responded so well. There’s been so much laughter,” Best added, pointing out that there is a meet and greet time with the cast after each performance, a tradition that she really enjoys. “Jake and I have had people come up to us and tell us how good the show was. Many have said that it’s one of the best shows they’ve seen at SCT in a long time.”
“Oklahoma!” is directed by Angela Martin and sponsored by sweetFrog of Clinton and Kosterman Chiropractic.
The remaining performances of “Oklahoma!” are as follows: Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 1 at 3 p.m. Reserved seat tickets — individuals get to pick the specific seat they want — can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 115 Fayetteville Street, any evening during cast rehearsals or on the weekend.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.