Dining With Denise Neil

Pie will be the co-star at local ‘Oklahoma’ sing-along

A sing-along version of “Oklahoma” will star at a Music Theatre Wichita/Tallgrass fundraiser. Pie will co-star.
A sing-along version of “Oklahoma” will star at a Music Theatre Wichita/Tallgrass fundraiser. Pie will co-star. Courtesy photo

It doesn’t get more wholesome than the fundraiser that Music Theatre Wichita and Tallgrass Film Association are presenting on May 7.

The groups are tapping into two of life’s greatest pleasures – pie and singing – for an “Oklahoma” sing-along and pie auction.

They’ll screen a rare version of the 1955 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma” and also will auction off pies made by or inspired by local and national celebrities, including Elliott Gould. They’ll also sell slices of pie at the event, which will happen at 2 p.m. May 7 at the Crown Uptown, 3207 E. Douglas.

“There’s a pie auction in the film, so it was a perfect fit,” said Lela Meadow-Conner, the executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association. “We haven’t done anything like this before.”

Organizers have asked several people to donate pies to the auction, which will happen during intermission of the movie. I’m one of them, and I’ve committed to my specialty – rhubarb. Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell is providing a blackberry pie. John Bardo, Wichita State University’s president, is offering lemon meringue. Broadcaster Sierra Scott will be making French silk with extra whipped cream.

Meadow-Conner also has gotten film star Elliott Gould, a friend of Tallgrass, to participate in the auction. He’s not making his pie of choice – cherry – but authorized Meadow-Conner to “ghost bake” it and attach his name to it. Gould, the star of “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” (and, for modern audiences, the dad to “Friends” Ross and Monica), was in Wichita in 2011 to receive an award at the Tallgrass Film Festival and struck up a friendship with several members of the Tallgrass staff, including Meadow-Conner, who e-mailed him and asked him to participate.

“It seemed like something he would say yes to,” she said.

The version of “Oklahoma” that will be shown in the event isn’t just any old version, said Wayne Bryan, Music Theatre Wichita’s producing artistic director.

Few people know, he said, that the movie actually was filmed twice. Producers Rodgers and Hammerstein first filmed it on Todd-AO 70mm film, which they thought would most ideally capture the musical. Once they were done, though, they realized that few theaters across the country had the technology to show it. So they re-shot the entire film using the more common CinemaScope technology, Bryan said. That’s the version that airs on television.

There are subtle differences in the two films, Bryan said, and the Todd-A0 version is brighter and more vibrant. That’s the one that will be shown at the event.

For longtime fans of “Oklahoma,” it’ll be a completely new experience, Bryan said.

“It’s like seeing a new movie,” he said. “It’s almost in 3D, it’s so clear.”

Bryan, who will present the stage version of “Oklahoma” July 13-17, said he hopes everyone will attend the film screening – but those inclined to sing along with the musical’s many well-known songs, including “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’.”

Singing along will not be allowed at the stage version, he said with a laugh.

“We’re thinking this is a way for everyone to get it out of their systems before they come and see the show,” he said.

Tickets to the singalong and pie auction are $10. They’re available by calling 316-265-3107, in the Music Theatre office at 225 W. Douglas, or at the door.