BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The Prairie Repertory Theatre (PRT) at South Dakota State University is putting on two popular former Broadway musicals, “Godspell” and “Oklahoma!,” along with two other plays this summer. 

Starting June 7, PRT will hold performances Wednesday through Saturday at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center. The two well-known musicals bookend their 2023 season with “Godspell” running June 7-10 and “Oklahoma!” finishing out the season from July 5-8. “Rumors” runs June 14-17 and “See How They Run” is June 21-24.

The weekday shows start at 7:30 p.m. CT and the Saturday matinees begin at 2 p.m. CT. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office. 

“Godspell” is structured as a series of parables that tell the story of Jesus Christ in a contemporary way. The music was written by Stephen Schwartz who has written scores and lyrics for other musicals like “Wicked” and “Children of Eden.”

“Oklahoma!” is a musical set in 1906 and follows the lives of farmers on the prairie. This was the first of nine Broadway musicals written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, who also wrote a version of “Cinderella” for the stage and “Sound of Music.” This year is the 80th anniversary of the musical on Broadway, which premiered in 1943.

“It’s just such fun music that we’re getting to do this year,” Abby Turner, who’s performing in both musicals, said. “In ‘Godspell,’ we get to rock out and then with ‘Oklahoma!’ it’s this beautiful golden age, test of time, classic music. So it’s like two of my loves that I get to do the same time.”

The company rehearses, builds sets and costumes and performs all four shows in eight and a half weeks. With 35 cast and crew members and 10 additional faculty members, the company works 12-hour days putting together the performances. 

“We want to make sure that we are really offering entertainment that our audience will like, the Midwestern audience that we serve,” Wilburn said. “ We’ve got a really large reach, so we want to make sure we’re doing right by them. We want to do shows they enjoy and also shows that challenge our students.”

Wilburn took over last summer as artistic director of PRT after former director J.D. Ackman retired. Wilburn has been involved in the summer production for 15 years, mostly working in the costume department.

“I was so used to running the costume shop and that’s probably ⅕ of the company,” Wilburn said. “It’s been really neat to do some of the things I didn’t do before. … It’s just been a pleasure to be able to serve the region and create entertainment.”

The company has started reintroducing non-local and non-SDSU students into the production, which is something that tapered off during COVID-19. Wilburn said it’s a great way for students to network with other theater majors across the country and expand PRT’s reach outside of the region. Some of the out-of-state students come from The Boston Conservatory, Rider University in New Jersey and Miami University in Ohio. 

“Over about two-thirds is like non-South Dakota people, or at least just non-SDSU people, and having that many differing perspectives, levels of skill and experience, personalities, it’s just made it so fun,” Turner said.

Logan Kehoe is a senior musical theater major from the University of South Dakota and said he got involved with PRT after seeing how much fun his USD classmates had last summer. 

“To work here, it didn’t seem like if I got a job, I’d be a cog in a machine working, it felt like all the people in the company were like a family last year,” Kehoe said. Having that family kind of feeling in theater is so helpful because it just allows you to relax and not worry much.”

Turner, who’s in her third year at PRT, graduated in May, but chose to stick around for one final season. This year, she plays Anna Maria in Godspell and Laurey Williams in Oklahoma! 

“We have such a great cast this year,” Turner said. “Everybody’s bringing their A game. So being in rehearsals just feels really fast paced. I know we’re producing some really high quality work and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”