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Craig Buhman, left, who plays Curly in ‘Oklahoma!’ practices his solo performance as Abby Sexton, Laurey, rests her head on his shoulder during the dress rehearsal practice of ‘Oklahoma!’ recently at the Missouri Theater. Buhman and Sexton play the two main characters of Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, who perform and play out their love story.

It’s hard to miss with a musical like “Oklahoma!” that’s custom made for a satisfying summer production in the Midwest.

It has lots of whimsy, romance, songs that won’t leave your head for weeks and laughs, as well as a sense of familiarity. All it needed was a cast to knock the material out of the park. It did.

Directed by Carol Myers with the set designed by Frank Polleck, Robidoux Resident Theatre’s production of “Oklahoma!” brought the musical to life with a sense of sugary energy.

While the actual story of the show is almost complete nonsense, with its male protagonist encouraging another character to commit suicide and later getting off on a murder charge in a kangaroo court because he has to go on his honeymoon, the cast embraced the lunacy. But not everything was flawless.

For its first night, things started out slow, and not just because the show opens with the iconic ballad “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.’” It felt like the core cast, including Curly (Craig Buhman), Laurey (Abby Sexton) and Aunt Eller (Cheryl Wood), was finding its footing as it performed in front of the Missouri Theater’s packed audience. There were some flat notes, a little bit of stiffness and long pauses.

The cast quickly grew more comfortable as the songs picked up the pace. The yee-haw spirit of “Kansas City,” performed by BJ Myers as the well-intentioned cowboy Will, placed the musical into a nice groove, and “I Can’t Say No,” sung by scene-stealer Kayla Mertz as the promiscuous Ado Annie, locked it in.

From there, it was a plethora of delights, with an entertaining rapport between Buhman’s Curly and his rival, Jud (played by Mike Evans, with equal parts shy restraint and boiling rage) making for one of the musical’s darkest, funniest scenes and songs, “Poor Jud is Daid.”

On the same token, Evans’ menacing performance made for some scary scenes with Laurey, with Sexton selling the terror of being accosted by the creepy farmhand.

The back-and-forth in the love triangle between the peddler Ali Hakim (Nathan Ellgren), Ado Annie and Will broke up any seriousness in the musical, with all of them having a ball on stage, earning every laugh.

The heart of the show was Sexton, who, in her first starring role with RRT, is tasked with an emotionally dynamic character, often having to switch between joy and terror, along with performing intricate dance numbers and singing some of the show’s more challenging songs. She nailed it, and coupled with Buhman, both did a solid job making the audience believe in their playful romance.

RRT’s production of the classic musical was exactly what audiences were promised and what they wanted for a summer show — something impressively produced and acted, full of pep and warmth.{p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”}Robidoux

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPgaug.