1983 Oklahoma! playbill

Pam Rapoza framed this 1983 playbill from a community theater production of Oklahoma! and gave it to her niece Marilla Lipker Gonzalez for Christmas. Lipker’s parents met during this show and 28 years later Gonzalez met her husband, Joe, on the same stage.

Love can strike twice — at least on the Midlakes High School stage, it appears.

This past holiday, Marilla Lipker Gonzalez of Geneva received a most meaningful gift from her aunt Pam Rapoza — a framed program from a 1983 Phelps-Clifton Springs Community Theatre production of Oklahoma! directed by Keith Childs. It was during that show that her late father Don Lipker (who played Curly) met and fell in love with her mother Paula Rapoza Lipker (who played Laurey), his onstage and eventual offstage love interest.

“They got married, actually moved to Oklahoma soon after and had a bunch of kids,” Lipker Gonzalez wrote on her Facebook page.

Fast forward from 1983 to 2011, when Childs was once again directing a community theater production — this time “Jekyll and Hyde.” Singing in the chorus for that show were Marilla Lipker (age 17) and Joe Gonzalez (age 15). Lipker, who was home schooled, grew up in Seneca Falls and Gonzalez was raised in Phelps and graduated from Midlakes High School.

“We were friends for a couple of years then we started dating and the rest is history,” said Lipker Gonzalez. The coupled married in 2016.

Now hanging on the Gonzalezes living room wall is the framed program “from the show where it all started.” It joins other performance pictures of the couple; Gonzalez starred in the Theatre 444 performance of “Pippin” this past summer and Lipker Gonzalez sings and performs regionally as a member of The Cool Club and the Lipker Sisters.

Also touched by the gift is Lipker Gonzalez’s mother, Paula.

“She just thought it was so nice,” Lipker Gonzalez said. “It was very cool for her to look through the names and people she still keeps in touch with.”

Rapoza, a high school freshman at the time, worked backstage on Oklahoma! and her mother, Peachy Beniamino, also was in the musical … so Rapoza was a firsthand witness to the Lipkers’ love story. She said has been going through boxes and boxes of items after having to sell the family home and stumbled on the Oklahoma! program.

“I’ve been doing theater my whole life; I keep everything, I have programs from everything,” Rapoza laughed. “I came across it and thought Marilla would really love and appreciate it.”

This web of ties is strong; Rapoza said she was also Joe Gonzalez’s first-grade teacher.

“Her parents’ story is so romantic and so special; it’s just a unique story and I knew Marilla would appreciate the gift,” Rapoza said. “And value it because of her story with Joe. It kind of all worked out.”

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