Colourful Oklahoma Production Evokes the Outdoors

27/04/2015

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Rodgers & Hammerstein: Oklahoma!: Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 25.4.2015 (SRT)

Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey andAshley Day as Curly in the National tour of OKLAHOMA! credit Pamela Raith

Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey andAshley Day as Curly in the National tour of OKLAHOMA! credit Pamela Raith

Cast:
Ashley Day – Curly
Charlotte Wakefield – Laurey
Belinda Lang – Aunt Eller
Gary Wilmot – Ali Hakim
Nic Greensheilds – Jud
Lucy May Barker – Ado Annie
James O’Connell – Will

 

Production:
Director – Rachel Kavanaugh
Choreographer – Drew McOnie
Costume and set design – Francis O’Connor
Musical director – Stephen Ridley

 

Oklahoma! was the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein and, while it has a lot of colour and sparkle, you can tell they hadn’t quite hit their best form yet.  It’s very clumsily plotted, the denouement arrives with barely any preparation and passes off with little tension, and the problematic figure of Jud, the most interesting and troubled of all the characters, is treated like a stock, one-dimensional figure without any of the psychological probing that Rodgers and Hammerstein would later hit.  There are plenty of Rodgers’ good tunes, though, and the local colour of the Oklahoma territory in 1906 covers over a lot of clumsiness.

This production argues as good a case for it as you’re likely to find.  They embrace the setting for what it is, and I liked the way Francis O’Connor’s sets successfully evoke the outdoors.  Aunt Eller’s farm, with its wooden house and gently turning windmill, seems to glow in the sunshine of the prairies, while Jud’s smoke house feels claustrophobic, and the box social seems to take place amidst the frame of the schoolhouse for which they are raising money.  Drew McOnie’s choreography was also direct and straightforward, while being properly impressive when it needed to be.  The box social felt like a proper hoedown, and he handled the difficult dream sequence that ends the first act not only with some beautiful company dances but also with a direct narrative style that told the story clearly and effectively.  The other advantage of the sets was they folded into one another like a set of Chinese boxes, which made the scene changes slick, avoiding tension-sapping interludes.

The cast of principals were very strong too, with excellent Oklahoma accents throughout.  Ashley Day cut a convincing romantic lead as Curley, with a strong stage persona and a rich singing voice to match.  His sparring with Charlotte Wakefield’s Laurey was very effective, and their voices were well matched in People will say we’re in love.  As the alternative couple, Lucy May Barker and James O’Connell provided not only comic relief but also some convincingly drawn characters, and both Gary Wilmot and Belinda Lang brought their acres of acting experience to their senior roles, though neither were great singers, and Lang was barely audible in the ensembles.  Best of all though was Nic Greensheilds, who cut an imposing, contradictory figure as Jud Fry.  Not only did his hulking stage presence convey a lot of the character’s inner difficulties, but his massive singing voice seemed to inhabit a whole universe of trouble.  It’s only a shame that Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t explore his complicated psyche a little more!

Oklahoma! is touring the UK until 8 August 2015.  For full details go to www.oklahomatour.co.uk

Simon Thompson

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anjali Dance Company Genius UK Tour 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Martin Yates and RSNO to give world premiere of The Future by Ralph Vaughan Williams __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! Abay Kazakh State Opera and Ballet Theatre at the London Coliseum on 17 November __________________________________
  • NEW! Highgate International Chamber Music Festival’s Beethoven 249 in November __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month