Rogers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration Oklahoma delighted audiences at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night. From the moment Curly (Ashley Day) began Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin I knew I was in for a treat.
Considering it was one of the first ever musicals, the show at times did feel a little dated, however the actors provided electric energy which ultimately brought the show to life. For a legit musical I admired the director Rachel Kavanaugh for sticking to the roots of the show and not attempting to modernise parts of it.
The set was magnificent, it truly created the rustic ranch atmosphere with the use of wooden structures. Similarly the costume was charismatic and no sense of the era was lost through the eloquently designed cowboy outfits and barn dance dresses. The production team didn’t cut any corners when it came to really creating the foundations for the show and giving it the right look.
Oklahoma tells the story of a cowboy named Curly who attempts to win the heart of young farm girl Laurey. They struggle with many ups and downs throughout the show, involving a slight love triangle with a troubled character named Jud who becomes obsessed with Laurey.
Ashley Day played the part of Curly, he had the perfect leading male look, impeccable dance moves and a beautiful voice. His chemistry with Laurey played by Charlotte Wakefield was highly convincing, Wakefield captures the boisterous and fiery role superbly. Her vocals had the essence of legit musical theatre however with the use of more modern vocal techniques, it created the perfect blend that both suited the show and appealed to the audience.
Belinda Lang played the squeaky voiced Aunt Eller who was adamant to get Laurey and Curly together. Her quirky character was formed with huge amounts of energy and her witty one-liners had the audience in fits of laughter. Naive young Ado Annie was played by the delightful Lucy May Barker, her idealistic view of love that was portrayed through her hilarious song I Cain’t Say No explaining how she just can’t turn boys down.
Ado Annie has two love interests during the show, one being local pedlar Ali Hakim played by Gary Wilmot who despite desperate attempts to lessen her interests for him, he struggles to shake Ado Annie off. Wilmot creates a lot of the comedy in the show and with his excellent comedy timing, he makes it seem effortless. Eventually she falls for young cowboy Will Parker played by Simon Anthony who isn’t the brightest young man, making them a perfectly suited couple.
A particular highlight of the show was the Dream Ballet which showcased the ensemble’s flawless dancing. With choreography by Drew McOnie the movement in the show was fluid and passionate, with the dream sequence being especially mesmerising.
Jud Fry, the lonely yet intimidating farm boy was played by Nic Greenshields, himself and Ashley Day executed a dark yet comedic scene intertwined with the musical number Pore Jud Is Daid. Greenshields interpretation of the character was very strong which was depicted in his powerful characterisation.
I found it refreshing to watch a musical bursting with talent played by properly trained musical theatre actors, not popstars or soapstars who are placed in a musical merely because their name will sell tickets.
Oklahoma is immensely cheesy yet barrels of fun, with sublime choreography and a classic soundtrack it is a production that reminds of us where musical theatre began.
The show runs until the 4th of July and tickets can be found here.