Jennifer Bell stars as Laurie Williams, and Peter Carrier portrays Curly McClain in “Oklahoma!” at Arizona Broadway Theatre.

Submitted photo

Many musical theater actors have Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” on their resumes.

But not Peter Carrier and Jennifer Bell, who will perform in the musical at Arizona Broadway Theatre for the first time in lead roles of Curly and Laurey.

“It’s a role that I’ve been dying to play for a really long time and now I have the chance,” Carrier said.

Carrier said his first experience with “Oklahoma!” happened as a child, when his parents took him to see a production at his hometown community theater.

“I remembered loving every last bit of the show and now I’m a part of it,” he said.

“Oklahoma!” opens Friday at ABT in Peoria and is set in the territory during 1906. It follows the romance of Curly McClain and farm girl Laurey Williams, with a secondary plot revolving around cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious girlfriend, Ado Annie.

“Oh What A Beautiful Morning,” “I Can’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma!” are some of the songs in the popular show.

Both Carrier and Bell believe “Oklahoma!” set the standard for musicals on Broadway.

“When it first premiered, it was quite groundbreaking because it furthered the plot by using song and dance together,” Bell said.

And for Bell, it’s been a great opportunity for her to perform “a good old-fashioned musical.”

“The show set the standards, and now musicals are shifting to more contemporary sounds,” she said. “So it’s nice to sing and perform these wonderful standards.”

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were an influential songwriting team in the 1940s and 1950s with a string of successful musicals, including “The Sound of Music,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and “Carousel.”

But “Oklahoma!” started it all for the duo.

And Carrier opens the show with “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.”

“Singing that song at the top of the musical makes me realize I’m doing this show,” he said. “There is nothing like this music.”

Many amateur and professional theater companies continue to perform “Oklahoma!”

“All of the themes still hold up, particularly being a cowboy and the American dream,” Bell said.

In addition, Carrier said “Oklahoma!” carries another underlying theme.

“It’s about staying optimistic and strong, even when bad things happen,” said Carrier. “You can be happy in the face of hardships.”

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