This production of OKLAHOMA is as up to date as Kansas City! Amidst acres of well-costumed colour, huge hoedown numbers and dream sequences, clever direction from James Worner also emphasizes the serious and sombre contrasts within this work.
On top of much comedy, lyricism and ambition relating to romance and gender roles, OKLAHOMA also covers the concept of the isolation of an outcast turned desperado. This extra layer fringing the top of all else is clearly presented by Miranda Musical Society.
Dark smokehouse scenes with a broodingly expressive Jud Fry are achieved in the using the reverse side of the Act One farmhouse set. This farm hand, often openly labelled as rough and different, has an out of control yearning for a wife and a place in the environment. The complex role is played with exquisite intensity by James Jonathon.
Jonathon’s spoken and ‘song’ communication is gripping throughout, and delivered with interesting parallel humanity to the remaining characters. He is vocally as exciting and dramatically stable as his rivals on the farm, cowboy Curly ( Eden Plaisted ) and pure-voiced Laurey (Rebecca Carter ). His rendering of “Poor Jud is Daid” brought goosebumps.
There is appropriate chemistry in the twists and turns of the relationship between the safer, society-approved Laurey and Curly. Their acting is focused whilst they comfortably sing timeless Rogers and Hammerstein classics. Their seamless blend in ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ is a special moment.
Comic characters successful in action, accent and effective lyrical delivery are Sally Redman’s inimitable Ado Annie and Tyler Joseph Hoggard’s laconic rodeo hero, Will Parker. Andrew Jackaman’s well drawn caricature of the Persian Pedler Ali Hakim maintains the momentum it needs for linking scenes, as does Anne-Marie McAdams’ commanding portrayal of the ubiquitous Aunt Eller.
Coupled with the signature string of memorable music by Rogers and Hammerstein is the production’s pioneering inclusion of many dance breaks. With impressive costume changes to match, the hard working cast realise a range of choreography from ballet to Broadway and other modern styles.
Whilst I found the moments of formation or patterned dancing to be the most fitting, mention must be made of a more traditional soft shoe number by the male cast early on. Jo Ansell has trained and blocked her cast well and imbued the various dance styles with charm and character.
The use of ballet shows the talent of the cast involved, and is an elevated vehicle for dream sequences. However, it does clash with the country and modern style choices, which I found more appealing due to them being so in line with the set, story and rapid forward movement of the whole production. Only briefly do full-cast moments suffer from a lack of neat formation. However, the energy is amazing and the crowd scenes will no doubt tighten up through the run.
It is a challenge to attempt a landmark revival of such a stage and screen classic as OKLAHOMA. This slick and entertaining show meets such a challenge. The fine voices and dancing are supported by a full orchestral sound which brings the well-known classics to life.
This production refreshingly represents the deeper than surface movie-musical concerns of Jud Fry and other of the characters who “want real things”. It is recommended y’all jump in yer fringed surrey and get to this show. It is repeatedly a beautiful mornin’ –but with an edge.
The final performance of this revival of OKLAHOMA is tonight (Sunday), 23rd March, at the Sutherland Entertainment Centre, 30 Eaton Street, Sutherland.