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Oklahoma City University ends season with 'The Most Happy Fella'



e told out of insecurity creates big problems.

"It's a story of contrasts and duality "? sort of an Old-World-meets-New-World situation," said director David Herendeen. "Further emphasizing the duality of the piece, Tony sings in this beautiful Italian accent with rhapsodic, almost operatic quality, while Rosabella sings with very music-theater quality, so the flavors of the two peoples and their heritage extend to the music."

Herendeen said "Fella" is a musical for the working class.

"It speaks in everyday terms to everyday people," he said. "The show opens with a number called 'Ooh! My Feet!,' where a waitress talks about how sore her feet are."

Both Herendeen and musical director Jan McDaniel share a love for "Fella" because of past experiences working on the musical.

"It's where Jan met his wife, Catherine. It's Pavlovian to him. I performed in the role of Tony a few times and my wife was my Rosabella in a production. We were married already, but it was a wonderful opportunity to perform together," Herendeen said. "This is first time that Jan and I have done it together, and we always have great big smiles on our faces when we're working on it. There's a nostalgia for both of us."

The 55 actors and a full orchestra are all Oklahoma City University students. Herendeen said that he is always impressed with how the students balance their academics with their art.

"They're doing all this two weeks before exams," he said. "They are outstanding artists and performers that have professional standards, professional abilities, and we work in the professional template with our rehearsals at night. But during the day, they are mild-mannered students dealing with all these stresses and pressures.

"'Fella'" is a work that has great joy, humor, passion with moments of darkness. Amazingly, the drama doesn't undercut the comedy, and the comedy doesn't cheapen the drama," Herendeen said.

Added McDaniel, "Frank Loesser set out to write a work that was all things to all people: a populist musical that celebrated America as a melting pot, a Broadway hit with 'boffo' songs, and a truly American opera, and he succeeded in spades."

"?Eric Webb


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