OKLAHOMA! Rogers and Hammerstein
Birmingham Hippodrome: 30.06 – 04.07, and touring
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 01 07 15
Great classic musical, greatly performed.
All the stops are pulled out for this lavish and totally engaging OKLAHOMA! It’s classic fare, and, free from showy effects, it has a welcome simplicity. The sets are effective, but the focus is on the singing and the songs.
The musical itself, the first penned by the, now legendary, Rogers and Hammerstein, was remarkable in its time for its low key opening. An old woman hangs out washing, all is hushed . . . then, in the distance, a lone voice sings the opening lines of OH WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING. It’s surprising yet neatly sets the tone for the whole show. As musical number follows musical number, you cannot but be stunned by the ease with which dialogue leads to song leads to dialogue – it seems the most natural thing in the world.
And for the singers . . . There is not a weak link in the company.
Ashley Day (Curly) sets the standard high with his opening and never falters. His voice is clear, easeful, has a luminescent quality that requires you to listen. Charlotte Wakefield (Laurey) has a voice that convinces us of her vivacious innocence. They duet perfectly.
Belinda Lang plays Aunt Eller with great character and would stop the show if it hadn’t just started for Part II with THE FARMER AND THE COWMAN. She leads with infectious vigour heading up the company in this excellently staged act two opener. Lucy May Barker never misses a comedic beat as Ado Annie, giving full value to the terrific I CAN’T SAY NO. It’s also a delight to see Gary Wilmot as Ali Hakim.
Nic Greenshields creates all the darkness we require in Jud; the all important (if a trifle melodramatic – the character not the performance) counterbalance to all the jollity.
Rachel Kavanaugh directs and ensures a good rhythm and strong believable characterisation, though, I’m not certain quite so much greyness is totally fitting. Drew McOnie’s choreography brings together a range of styles into a satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable whole.
Aunt Eller: Belinda Lang
Curly: Ashley Day
Laurey: Charlotte Wakefield
Ike Skidmore: Barnaby Thompson
Fred: Robbie Boyle
Slim: Simon Anthony
Will Parker: James O’Connell
Jud Fry: Nic Greenshields
Ado Annie Cornes: Lucy May Barker
Ali Hakim: Gary Wilmot
Gertie Cummings: Kara Lane
Ellen: Hannah Grace
Kate: Emilie Du Sleslay
Vivian: Christina Bennington
ArminoK Katie Marie-Carter
Mike: Ian Gareth Jones
Andrew Cornes: Paul Grunert
Cord Elam: Christopher D Hunt
Virginia: Gabriella Stylianou
Aggie: Sasi Strallen
Jog: Perry O’Dea
Swing: Lisa Bent
Swing: Ross Lee Fowkes
Director: Rachel Kavanaugh
Choreographer: Drew McOnie
Musical Supervisor:: Stephen Bidley
Set and Costume Designer: Francis O’Connor
Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell
Sound Designer: Ben Harrison
Orchestrator: Steven Edis
Assistant Director: David Sibery
Musical Director: Ben Atkinson
Casting Director: James Orange