OKLAHOMA – Touring

In Musicals, Regional theatre, Reviews, Touring by Matt MerrittLeave a Comment

Ah Oklahoma, another in that list of musicals who have been produced and cast so perfectly in the past (in this case the wonderful National Theatre production that gave Hugh Jackman his big break) that you begin to wonder why anyone would dare attempt it again. But clearly Music & Lyrics – the collaborative effort of a number of the UK’s finest regional receiving theatres – are braver souls than I.

The real question is whether their bravery pays off? Well, yes… and no! This is a perfectly entertaining production with a few impressive performances but on the whole it fails to scale the heights or the depths of emotion that we know are there. I can’t be entirely sure but I suspect this is largely because director Rachel Kavanaugh has decided to paint in very broad strokes.

Ashley Day makes for a likeable enough Curly but is just a little too polished to be entirely believable, both in his acting and his singing. Charlotte Wakefield fares better as Laurie, she has a little more emotion to mine, especially in Act Two but she also seems more in tune with her character and her vocals, while not as polished as Day’s, fit the setting and the mood perfectly.

The two standout performances come at either end of the spectrum. Gary Wilmot gives exactly the performance you might expect as Ali Hakim, mining the humour of the script and adding his own little flourishes. He’s not doing anything new but he’s
doing it well and with utter conviction! The darkness in the story comes from Jud Fry, the malcontent farm hand who is normally portrayed as a brutish villain.

Nic Greenshields, who impressed last year in Chichester’s Guys & Dolls, has formed a more rounded
character for his Jud. There are shades of Lennie in Of Mice and Men as we
realise this Jud is perhaps not in full control of himself and doesn’t
understand the fearsome image he presents.

Elsewhere Lucy May
Barker
shows promise and there are moments when her Ado Annie is truly
wonderful, especially during her songs, but at other times it seems as if she
has been given no direction. The same can be said of James O’Connell’s Will Parker, a role that seems strangely
diminished in this production. Belinda
Lang
turns Aunt Eller, who is often the heart of the show, into a cranky
caricature without even a hint of subtlety and suffers even more than most of
her cast-mates from a bizarre and ever-changing accent – though most of the
cast could have done with a dialect coach to provide some degree of
consistency.

Overall though, for all its flaws this is still a wonderful
piece of musical theatre and the gusto with which the ensemble attack the
company numbers is addictive, indeed an elderly lady behind me sings along with
the whole of the second act in a piercing soprano that can’t quite decide which
key to use! If you head along you’ll almost certainly have an enjoyable night
and I defy you not to be humming a tune or two the next day!

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Matt Merritt
Matt has been a theatre fan since childhood, regularly visiting theatres in his native Portsmouth and surrounding areas. He has been reviewing for some time, initially for local press outlets before starting his own site, Sitting in the Cheap Seats, in 2013. These days he can generally be found in the front row of the balcony in a theatre in the Southwest (or on trips to London), quietly thankful he is short enough not to notice the lack of legroom!
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Matt Merritt on FacebookMatt Merritt on RssMatt Merritt on Twitter
Matt Merritt
Matt has been a theatre fan since childhood, regularly visiting theatres in his native Portsmouth and surrounding areas. He has been reviewing for some time, initially for local press outlets before starting his own site, Sitting in the Cheap Seats, in 2013. These days he can generally be found in the front row of the balcony in a theatre in the Southwest (or on trips to London), quietly thankful he is short enough not to notice the lack of legroom!

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