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Summer theater program bringing musical to stage

Jack Iole, right, sings a song Tuesday, July 9, alongside Dori Shearer at a rehearsal for the Summer Dramatics Project production of “Oklahoma.” Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

A group of youths and young adults look forward to summer each year, not for a vacation, but to get to spend the warm season preparing for and putting on a show with the Summer Dramatics Project.

The Summer Dramatics Project has been putting on plays and musicals in the Butler area since the 1960s, and this year will bring “Oklahoma” to the Succop Theater at Butler County Community College.

The show runs July 26, 27 and 28, and the organizers and actors have been preparing for the show since the start of 2024. Gordon Cavalero, director of “Oklahoma,” said the organizers get together in January to choose a production and get everything ready for the actors, who range in age from 10 to 24, to begin rehearsals in the summer.

On Tuesday, July 9, the actors went through the show, singing well-known tunes from the show, such as “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” tap dancing in “Kansas City” and bringing the house down with the title song, “Oklahoma.”

Jack Iole, who leads the cast as Curly in the musical, said he likes “Oklahoma” because it mixes a historical tale with stories of personal journeys, and the production offers a challenge in its quick shifting of tones.

“It’s a lot more than a play; you have to learn music and dialogue,” Iole said. “You have to be able to switch back and forth between acting lines to singing them.”

Mia McGrady, left, and Jack Iole rehearse a scene from the Summer Dramatics Project production of “Oklahoma” on Tuesday, July 9. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

Mia McGrady, who plays Laurey in the production, also said the musical offers different angles to the story through the characters navigating their own lives throughout the historical event.

“It follows a few different love stories,” McGrady said. “There’s a few romances, a few fights; and it also deals with Oklahoma going from a territory to a state.”

There are about 50 actors involved in the production this year, which is actually fewer than the usual Summer Dramatics Project production, according to Marissa Wagner, assistant director.

Wagner said many people who participate in one production with the group return year after year, which helps them grow as actors through watching the older participants, and they learn more about theater in the process.

“It also gives the older kids the opportunity to start teaching the little ones acting, responsibility, being on stage,” Wagner said. “It gives you the chance to do what you want to do on stage and help the younger ones learn.”

“Oklahoma” plays at 7:30 p.m. July 26 and July 27 and at 2 p.m. July 28 at the Succop Theater at BC3. Tickets can be purchased at summerdramaticsproject.ludus.com.

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