An inspirational re-imagined production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that left me with oh, what a beautiful feelin’!
Oklahoma! It’s one of those shows that’s been done 100 times, so you’d probably question why re-do it again?
That was the question on my mind as I made the trip to the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, to see the 70-year-old classic. But this production did certainly silence any doubts.
It’s one of those shows where the whole audience leave the show with a huge grin plastered on their faces.
From the opening bellow of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ to the final chorus of Oklahoma! the show is filled to the brim with a passion for life and a mixture of that fresh pioneer spirit with all the promise of the newly settled territory itself.
Our stage is set at the turn of the last century. Whilst the legacy of the recently ended American Civil War is roundly ignored, the tale does hint at the vastness of the land that was there to be grabbed, as well as the agricultural rivalries between the rancher and the farmer, and all alongside the emerging technologies that were seeing automobiles appear and skyscrapers come out of the ground.
Young star Ashley Day plays a cocky Curly alongside the feisty Charlotte Wakefield, who both prove they’re capable of singing, dancing and acting their socks off. Their performances were full of banter and believability and were likeable leads, making a crucial central pairing at the heart of the ensemble.
The huge cast gave all-round great performances and particularly shone towards the end of the first half and lifted through to the final curtain call.
But the wow factor didn’t stop there, Francis O’Connor has created an extremely unique and evocative set, while choreographer Drew McOnie brings an interesting and almost contemporary feel to the dance routines.
For the music lovers, there’s a ten-piece band playing completely re-imagined orchestrations by Steven Edis under the baton of Stephen Ridley, which are modern and wonderfully executed, adding another dimension of excitement to the whole package.
Furthermore, the way that the choreography and music came together was, in parts, astonishing. In particular, the dream sequence at the end of the first half. which was repeated later on in the production to show how Laurey’s nightmare was coming true, was an extremely powerful piece of theatre.
I think why the show was such a success was there’s terrific support across the company, including an absolutely hilarious Gary Wilmot, some sass from a feisty Belinda Lang, and a surprise favourite performance from Lucy May Barker (Ado Annie) who sang beautifully. Nobody among the ensemble puts a foot wrong, and the overall effect is simply glorious.
The show may drag on a little in the first act, but the audience’s enthusiasm for the show as it went along made it a worthwhile trip.
You can still get some tickets before it saddles off into the distance at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.