Wyndham’s Theatre, London
One of the most exciting and invigorating productions of recent time, Oklahoma! at the Wyndham’s Theatre is truly a spectacle of theatre which uses a number of engaging elements to transform this old school show, into something which feels fresh and bracing.
Directed by Daniel Fish, the reimagined musical has lot of interesting moments and is a deliberately unsettling and provocative piece of theatre. This is a show which delivers some interesting social commentaries and has been updated to be relevant for contemporary audiences. As a commentary on mob mentality and societal positions, it’s very effective and well done; and the plot/character change to the end completely turns the show on its head and leaves the audience to draw its own conclusions on right and wrong.
Among the changes, are those to the score which is totally switched up from how it’s classically been heard. Daniel Kluger’s arrangements allow the music to soar in a completely different way and make it sound as though it was written today. Hearing it like this, it’s quite unbelievable that this is one of the first ever book musicals and even more so that it feels so relatable. One of the biggest differences is the vocal style of leading lady Anoushka Lucas as Laurey who in contrast to the usual soprano performance, sings the songs like the singer/songwriter she is; and really grounds the music in reality. Alongside Arthur Darvill who also plays the guitar on stage, there is an incredible level of vulnerability and angst shown throughout.
The rest of the cast are astounding and do an excellent job of interpreting the musical in their own way. As Ado Annie Georgina Onuorah is incredibly witty as well as being a vocal powerhouse, her rendition of I Can’t Say No is an absolute stand out and highlight of the show. Liza Sadovy is a powerful presence on stage and gives Aunt Eller a lot more autonomy than usual, especially in her romantic endeavours. As Will Parker James Patrick Davis is gloriously clueless whilst Stavros Demetraki is his own worst enemy. There’s also a moving section with the dream sequence dance which Marie-Astrid Mence performs excellently. You couldn’t ask for a better gelled, and talented cast.
Whilst there are humorous moments, the show could lean into the comedy more and have some more ramped up moments. The subdued moments work very well and the tension is continually built up but there aren’t any hugely contrasting moments of joy. The cast are continually strong but due to the stylistic choices of the show, there’s rarely a truly thrilling moment and at times it feels like the cast are constrained by the intense nuance.
The use of lighting (Scott Zielinski) is one of the most effective and exciting parts of the show. Beginning with the house lights up and the whole audience in plain view, the sudden changes to an eerie green hue and later on full blackouts, have an amazing influence on the story and how the audience feel about the characters.
It’s quite incredible how a small lighting change can completely subvert a song and show it, both literally and figuratively, in a new light. The initial blackout which features Curly (Darvill) and Jud (Patrick Vaill) creates a theatrical atmosphere like no other. In a sort of asmr style moment, the full darkness, with even the fire exit signs turned off, means you can’t help but focus completely on the actor’s voices as they boom out via handheld mics. The already tense scene becomes completely unnerving for the audience and is a theatrical moment that will stay with audiences for a long time.
This is a very different Oklahoma to the one your grandparents know so you may want to consider that before booking (especially if planning on taking children) but for the boldness and pure invigoration that this show brings, it’s definitely worth seeing. A non-traditional production which is jarringly dark, Oklahoma will give you a theatrical experience like no other and is a stunning addition to the West End.