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OKLAHOMA!

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As classic musicals go, Rodgers and Hammerstein opuses aren't known for the durability of the books. By contemporary sensibilities, the corn sometimes feels as high as the elephant's eye. The King and I and South Pacific librettos have aged the best; Oklahoma! might be better if it weren't for those Jed Clampett moments. Still, it's always worth revisiting shows bolstered by some of the most glorious music ever written for Broadway, and the legacy of Agnes DeMille's legendary original choreography isn't chopped liver, either. This touring edition is often spirited and melodic, despite its lapses into tonal schizophrenia.

Though still under the auspices of producer Cameron Mackintosh and the Royal National Theatre, this modestly budgeted remounting is several generations removed from the original London production. As with RNT's earlier revisionist take on Carousel, there was an attempt to bring out the darker elements of Hammerstein's book in this saga of the untamed West. Unfortunately the clash between brooding melodrama and cornpone, smiley-faced romance makes for a dramaturgic hodgepodge, causing this three-hour epic to sag between the soaring song-and-dance numbers.

If you could find a way to do it, the best approach to enjoying this show would be to snooze between the musical sequences. You don't want to miss the charm and gorgeous singing of Jeremiah James and Julie Burdick in the romantic leads, or the pleasantly subdued comic portrayal of Pat Sibley as crusty Aunt Eller. And stay awake for Ginger Thatcher's dazzling re-creations of Susan Stroman's rousing choreography. Anthony Ward's sets and costumes are likewise appealing, and Fred Hanson's direction is on target, except in those ponderous angst-filled second-act scenes. There's spirited supporting work from Daniel Robinson and Carrie Love as understandably jealous cowpoke Will and his philandering sweetheart, Ado Annie. As the dastardly Jud Fry, Andrew Lebon is a capable actor, unfortunately trapped by the script's overwrought melodramatics. Sorab Wadia elicits solid laughs as the libidinous Persian peddler Ali Hakum. Those who don't expect revivals of ancient hits to be all or nothin' will be seduced by the toe-tapping charms of this golden-age tuner.

"Oklahoma!," presented by Broadway L.A. and NETworks Presentations, LLC, at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Tue.-Fri. 8 pm, Sat. 2 & 8 pm, Sun. 1 & 6:30 pm. Jan. 18-30. $42.50-67.50. (213) 365-3500 or (714) 740-7878.

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