Life on the homestead has never been more beautiful than on Ogunquit Playhouse’s stage. The theater is continuing its 86th season with a production that pioneered musicals 75 years ago, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” Today the state of Oklahoma may be just “OK,” but the grand old musical, directed by Fred Hanson, is still a dazzling gem that – albeit a little light on plot – sure is fun and “purty.”

Based on the original Broadway and London scenic designs by Anthony Ward, Michael Allen adds his own flair to the wide-open spaces of the Midwest, recreating the former Indian Territory with pastel clouds that mesmerizingly float across a sheer curtain, skies painted in vivid colors, quaint buildings that capture the bygone era and a curtain cornfield that holds myriad mysteries and merriment.

“Oklahoma!” is a treasure-trove of entertainment that’s packed with infectious high-energy choreography by Ginger Thatcher – based on original choreography by Susan Stroman – and iconic songs, under the musical direction of Jeffrey Campos, that haven’t lost an iota of catchiness in three-quarters of a century.

Set in the early 1900s, the musical primarily captures a day in the life of rival cowboys and farmers, living in what would soon become the state of Oklahoma in 1907. Stephen Mark Lukas and Taylor Quick head up the enthusiastic cast as the musical’s reluctant lovebirds, Curly McLain and Laurey Williams. They are charmingly paired, with the handsome Lukas offering up a dashing arrogance and buttery-smooth vocals and the ultra-petite Quick delivering a haughty feistiness and ringing, bell-like upper range.

There can be little doubt how stunning the morning is as Lukas sings “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, ” and the onstage couple captivate on the duet “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

Love is definitely in the air, with Colby Dezelick and Chessa Metz engaging in an amusing flirtation as Will Parker and Ado Annie Carnes. Dezelick is as quick with his hands as he is nimble on his feet, wowing the audience with lasso rope tricks and high-stepping acrobatics on “Kansas City,” while Metz is the consummate tease on “I Can’t Say No,” as her character frivolously tries to decide between her winsome cowboy and her newest infatuation, peddler Ali Hakim (Martin Sola).

“Oklahoma!” is chock-full of quirky characters, with Susann Fletcher standing out as Laurey’s Aunt Eller. She can cut a rug at the hoedown just as easily as she can dole out maternal advice and keep the peace between the cowboys and farmers.

Timothy John Smith delivers a standout performance as Aunt Eller’s farmhand, Jud Fry, whose unnatural obsession with Laurey puts him at odds with Curly. His rich vocals rumble with power and sad menace on “Lonely Room,” offering up one of the production’s most surprising and memorable moments.

The ensemble is a sheer delight to watch as they light up the stage with high-spirited dancing, punctuated by choreographed fight scenes and an intriguing take on Laurey’s dream sequence, “Out of My Dreams – Ballet.” Whimsical ballet morphs into risqué burlesque as the dream devolves into ominous foreshadowing. But, in the world of “Oklahoma!,” threats never cloud the beautiful day for long.

The Ogunquit Playhouse and cast deliver a production of “Oklahoma!” that captivates the audience with a fanciful story, an unforgettable score and infectious energy that gets heads bopping and toes tapping. It’s an entertaining throwback to the origin of musicals and the start of a partnership between one of musical theater’s most beloved writing teams.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle

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