BATH — Chocolate Church Arts Center presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first collaboration, “Oklahoma!” Sept. 15-24.

According to a news release, “The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation.”

The musical score from this show includes such familiar songs as “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” and “Oklahoma.”

The cast of farmers, cowboys, love interests and townspeople are led by Curly (Chase Tomberlin, of Brunswick); Laurey (Sharon Henderson, of Gardiner); Jud (Iver McLeod, of Bath); Ado Annie (Caitlin Paul, of Gardiner); Will (Garret Coffey, of Bath), and a foreign peddler, Ali Hakim (Rich Ellis, of Brunswick).

This is mixed cast with experienced and newbie members from middle schoolers to retirees. Under the direction of Thom Watson, music direction of Theresa Henderson and choreography of Ashley Steeves, they bring a sweet community version of this classic show to life.

Highlights for me included seeing Deborah Patterson as Aunt Eller. I was in a fairy tale Christmas show with her just a few years ago when she played Mother Goose, her first theatrical role. It was great to see how she’s grown, later in life, into an actress with a ton of lines, great stage presence and one of the most authentic characters in a show (written with a lot of stereotypes in mind).

Rich Ellis does a nice job as Ali Hakim; I give extra points for stage presence. Caitlin Paul is the strongest performer, even with her constant role-appropriate mugging. Her stage presence and lanky, kinetic Ado Annie is right on the mark, and her featured number “I Cain’t Say No” was my favorite of the night.

Tomberlin, as Curly, has a Presley-style accent that felt a bit strong at first, until I remembered “Oklahoma!” is a little over the top and his character was consistent. I enjoyed the surprising moment of harmony between him and McLeod at the end of “Pore Jud is Daid.”

My favorite scene with Tomberlin and winsome co-star Henderson was what is known as the “dream ballet.” I was attending a rehearsal, so I got to watch as choreographer Steeves worked with the music director and orchestra to find the perfect tempo for the dances. Not something the audience frequently takes a lot of time to think about.

Steeves acknowledges the “dream ballet” segment was the most challenging. “It’s over 15 minutes long in many versions of ‘Oklahoma!’ and I wasn’t sure how to approach it at first. Luckily, the original choreography Agnes De Mille had a guide created so I was able to utilize that.”

Asked what styles of dance she incorporated in her own design, she added, “I used ballet, modern, tap, square dance, line dance. The tavern scene is usually a jazzy can-can, but I used a more neoclassical ballet approach to break the rules. The style that isn’t always included is probably Pointe. Before I studied the show I knew I wanted to take the phrase ‘dream ballet’ literally and use classical ballet. Once I had a better outline, I was able to place the dancers correctly and I feel they fit super well.”

“Oklahoma!” runs Sept. 15-16, 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 24 on the main stage of the Chocolate Church, 804 Washington St. Tickets are $12 advance, $15 at the door, available by calling 442-8455 or visiting