OKLAHOMA! -- At the Kennedy Center Opera House through September 9.
The sunshiny production of "Oklahoma!" at the Kennedy Center's Opera House is a rare example of well enough being left alone.
No modern smirks have been injected into the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical -- written in 1943 and set in the beginning of the century, just before Oklahoma became a state -- to indicate that we now realize how cute and innocent people used to be before our sophisticated selves appeared.
Nor is this musical really unsophisticated, with its bantering tone of friendly insult between hero and heroine, and its contentedly promiscuous ingenue. We have come to suspect wholesomeness, in entertainment as actually meaning the omission of that seaminess we consider realism, but there's no reason that a show has to be naive just because it's cheerful.
"Oklahoma!" was always a funny show, with zesty songs and dances, and that's what it is now, under the direction of William Hammerstein, Oscar 2's son, and with the innovative Agnes De Mille choreography, including ballet, tap-dancing and hoedowning, recreated by Gemze de Lappe.
The show's cheer starts with the expansive enjoyment of a self-confidently charming Laurence Guittard singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," and is thrown into relief by the fascinating sullenness of Martin Vidnovic as Jud Frye. Mary Wickes, who, has been making prune faces since she was the original Miss Preen in "The Man Who Came to Dinner," does a likable version of the cantankerous lady, and Christine Andreas, and Harry Groener have a contagious bursting-with-life humor.
It's good to see goodness that manages to restraint itself from turning into goodiness.