The Amherst PTA will present its production of “Oklahoma!” This marks the 60th anniversary of the PTA plays, begun back in 1953 with its first show, “You Don’t Have to be Rich.”
Sixty years later, this yearly fundraiser continues to bring people together for wonderful community theater, all while raising funds to support the local schools and children of Amherst and Mont Vernon.
“Oklahoma!” – the first musical written by famed composers Rodgers and Hammerstein – is the perfect show to celebrate this milestone year with its uplifting story, beautiful scenery and popular music. The story is set in Oklahoma territory, with cowboy Curly McLain, played by Steve Hammes of Milford, and his budding romance with farm girl Laurey Williams, played by Jen Erdody. Erdody is well-known in the area as the music director of The Souhegan Valley Chorus and teacher at Milford High School. Cowboy Will Parker, played by Nick Hammes, a senior at Milford High School, and his fiance, the flirtatious Ado Annie, played by Olivia Vordenberg, a sophomore at Souhegan High School, liven the story with their trials and tribulations. David Ostrowski, last year’s PTA play co-director of “The Music Man” and a seasoned actor from Amherst, portrays the complex, lonely character Jud Fry, a farmhand who soon gets in the way of Curly and Laurey for an unusual love triangle.
“I look forward to being part of this annual school fundraiser,” said Michelle Emmond, a sixth-grade teacher at Amherst Middle School who has been involved with the PTA productions for 33 years.
For her, the most fulfilling part of working on these shows is being able to act alongside the students she teaches.
“It is equally special to me to be able to rehearse and perform with these children, and not just be their teacher or theatre director. It forges a very special bond that I cherish,” she said.
Roger Hurd, who has been involved in the productions since the 2006 play “The King and I,” where he played a palace guard, is making his directing debut.
When asked why they chose “Oklahoma!” Hurd said, “The main reason we selected this particular show was we wanted a classic, well-known musical that had not been done before, and one that allowed us to incorporate an ensemble of all age groups that had participated in the past.”
One of the newest cast members, Helen St. Cyr, a sixth-grader at Amherst Middle School, is in her third production, is cast as an Oklahoma farm kid.
“Everyone plays their roles so well, and the show is so full of life,” St. Cyr said. “It makes me happy to see how the audience reacts to the show.”
Conrad Koch, of Milford, makes his PTA debut as Andrew Carnes, the overprotective father of Ado Annie. This has been a fulfilling trip down memory lane for Koch and a meaningful second chance, as he was cast in “Oklahoma!” many years ago in high school, but his family moved before the performances took place. What stands out to Koch about the PTA productions is the professionalism. “The fact that this was a musical being performed by such wonderful local talent made the viewing experience something very special,” Koch said of last year’s play, “The Music Man.”
Ellen Cunis, of Amherst, also makes her PTA debut as Aunt Eller, Laurey’s wise and good-humored aunt. She has enjoyed working with the cast and production team.
“What a dear group of fun and hardworking children and adults,” she said.
She described what sets the PTA play apart from other local productions.
“We are moms and dads, teachers, neighbors and students, who come together for one cause: to help our schools. It’s a great mix of all ages. The PTA cast is a true snapshot of what it means to be a community,” she said.
As you can see from all those involved, there is so much to say about the Amherst PTA productions. Come see for yourself, and experience this wonderful community event while supporting the local schools.
Show dates are April 12-15 at the Souhegan High School Theatre in Amherst. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and can be purchased by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229110 or The Black Forest Cafe and Bakery, The Homestead Grocery and Deli, or Moulton’s Market in Amherst, or The Toadstool Bookshop in Milford.
– Submitted by Janine Leffler, Joanne Zeolie and Jackie O’Dowd