National Theatre, London – Via BroadwayHD
Broadway HD streamed Trevor Nunn’s production for free this weekend.
Given Trevor Nunn’s recent success with his exquisite production of Fiddler on the Roof , I was particularly curious to see how his 1998 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! would match up. I was not disappointed.
This lavish and lively production is wonderfully rustic and authentic that makes it a real pleasure to watch from start to finish – particularly as it is filled with some immensely enjoyable performances.
Written by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, Oklahoma! is the story of farmgirl Laurey and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the sinister farmhand Jud Fry. Filled with memorable songs such as ‘Oh,What A Beautiful Mornin’ and ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’, it is a musical that places emotions right at the heart of every moment.
Directed with great care by Nunn, there are many moments in which really grab the attention – not least when Curly (Hugh Jackman) chats to Jud (Shuler Hensley) and the conversation takes a dark turn which is quietly menacing. It is a production that has a strong ability to switch moods in a split second but never forgets to be a spectacle.
Meanwhile, the choreography by Susan Stroman is exuberant and lively – particularly during the ballet dream sequence which is as thrilling as it is terrifying as Laurey’s dream takes a darker turn. Elsewhere, the sequence for ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ is really authentic to watch.
Yet despite the element of darkness in the plot, there is much humour to be found in the script that is really made much of particularly thanks to the performances and chemistry between Vicki Simon’s Ado Annie and Jimmy Johnston’s Will Parker that leads to a charming rendition of ‘All Er Nuthin’.
Elsewhere, the central performances of Josefina Gabrielle as Laurey and Jackman as Curly are equally impressive. Both dazzle vocally as heard in their rendition of ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ and have an enjoyable chemistry together as they both stubbornly refuse how they feel for each other. Both are able to draw the audience into their performances whether singing or acting with ease and style, making the relationship between Laurey and Curly feel genuine and gradual. There is also excellent support in the form of Shuler Hensley’s sinister Jud and Maureen Lipman’s strong and forthright Aunt Eller.
Everything about this production is wonderful and my only regret is that I didn’t get to see it on stage for myself.
By Emma Clarendon