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This musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first, is one of the finest collaborations ever, and resulted in a magnificent score bursting with vitality that changed the direction of musical comedy forever. There is a richness of texture and contrast right from the opening number of ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’, and the following succession of hit songs lead through to the rousing finale ‘Oklahoma!’ It retains its’ position high up on the list of the most popular and well-loved musicals.
‘Oklahoma!’ opened at The Drury Lane Theatre four years after its premiere in New York, and there it ran for over 1500 performances. In tryouts it was known as ‘Away We Go’.
Your set was imaginative and completely different to the usual hired sets and clearly a great deal of work went into the construction. It’s a real pleasure to see something original and the hard work certainly paid off. With only a few props and some proficient repositioning the different areas were simply created. The one area I felt a little lacking was Jud’s cabin. It just wasn’t creepy enough to be the habitat of such an unwholesome creature.
Adam Blosse did a splendid job with the musicians and at no time did they overpower the vocalists. The balance was good and both the overture and entr’act were a most enjoyable part of the production. I liked their dressing in appropriate check shirts too.
On the technical side the sound was the best I’ve heard it at The Magna Carta and the lighting was particularly effective.
Jack’s direction and staging were sound and the choreography was good. I especially enjoyed ‘Surrey With the Fringe on Top’, ‘Many a New Day’, ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ and of course the rousing finale of ‘Oklahoma!’ The ‘Dream Ballet’ was superb! I believe you ran it in its’ entirety – it’s usually cut as it’s so long – but it held the audience throughout. Brilliantly choreographed and performed it was a highlight of the production.
Colour co-ordinated costumes at the opening were unusual, and they worked really well, with only the odd principal stepping out in something different when the occasion demanded it. Gertie of course had to wear something to match her personality and the bright yellow dress did just that.
Graham Hope’s ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ was confidently relaxed and the role of Curly was completely safe in his hands. He has a pleasant demeanour on stage and sings well.
Aunt Eller’s character has many facets and they were clearly portrayed by Aileen. She was protective and encouraging with Laurey, tough with the men – behaving like one of them – and in charge of everyone and everything! Her accent was excellent.
Tara Cimino played Laurey as a very feisty young woman but we saw some vulnerability as the threat of Jud became more imminent. Her singing appears effortless and is first rate.
The unsavoury villain of the piece presents a challenge. He is a complex character without social skills and is disliked by everyone, and yet the audience need to feel not only repugnance but also pity for him. Nigel Smith managed to achieve this as Jud Fry, although I felt he could perhaps have been even more menacing.
Ado Annie is such a fun role to play and Becky Silverstein made a very saucy and delightfully superficial Ado Annie. Utterly desperate for a husband – she didn’t mind whom – and Becky brought out the comedy strongly. Her diction was excellent and her singing in ‘I Cain’t Say No’ was very good.
The other great character to play is that of Ali Hakim, the rascally Middle Eastern pedlar, and John Dean Roberts gave a wonderfully comedic performance, managing to maintain a credible accent throughout. The Arabic script on his suitcase was a great touch, and as far as I could see it did spell his name.
As Will Parker, the ‘boy next door’ who hoped to win Annie’s affections, Alvin Wright –Jones was likeable and played the part convincingly.
Mike Davenport was a commanding presence in the role of Ado Annie’s father, Andrew Carnes
Company numbers were full of energy and the singing was strong.
The box social scene contained moments of tension and drama as Jud did his utmost to secure Laurey’s basket and Aunt Eller did her utmost to make sure it went to someone else. I was moved to feel sorry for Jud.
The numerous small named parts together with the chorus all supported the principals admirably and worked together to produce a slick and enjoyable musical.
Make-up and hair were suitable as were the props, and the number of children on stage added to the feel of a settler’s community in Oklahoma. The children performed well.
Your programme is imaginative and set out for ease of reading.
Thank you for inviting me and also for your hospitality on the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed your production of ‘Oklahoma!’
N.O.D.A. South East Regional Representative – District 12