75 years since first opening on Broadway, Leamington & Warwick Musical Theatre Society gloriously brought to life Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical triumph, Oklahoma!
Unlike many musicals that open with grand ensemble numbers, Oklahoma! opens with just one actor, Curly, taking centre stage as he sings one of the most iconic numbers, Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’. Chris Gilbey-Smith made for a swaggeringly smooth Curly, with sublime acting and a super voice he really did take centre stage through the night. His pairing with Bex Walton’s Laurey worked incredibly well. Walton brought a great feistiness to Laurey and their duet of People Will Say We’re In Love was a particular highlight.
Sally Jolliffe delighted as Aunt Eller, she was a warm and glowing presence on the stage throughout, with great comic moments sprinkled in her performance. An equal presence, but not for the same reasons, was Tom Vickery as Jud Fry. His brooding character was incredibly unnerving. There was a great supporting ensemble and I must say it was refreshing to see assured characterisations from these smaller, but no less important roles. In particular, Nelle Cross as Kate and the rest of Laurey’s girls.
There were some diction issues, with the accent causing lines to be missed and some occasional imbalances in the sound meaning that some lyrics were missed, however, this is only a small criticism of what was an incredibly slick production. Director Stephen Duckham added some clever nuances in to hide the larger scene changes, but even these were executed expertly. Perhaps some of the most impressive changes I’ve seen in an amateur performance.
However, the stand out element of this show lay in its stunning choreography, crafted by Hannah Hampson. The Farmer And The Cowman showcased this excellently in its vibrancy and celebratory atmosphere, however the pinnacle was the Dream Ballet, with Charlotte Cochrane in the role of Laurey in this beautiful sequence. It was utterly entrancing and a testament to Cochrane, Hampson and the talents of this company.
Musical Director Matt Flint breathed wonderful life into Rodgers’s music and there was nothing more joyous than the entire ensemble taking to the stage for the title song, Oklahoma! Full of vim and verve, LWMS proved that age is no obstacle; 75 years on and there’s still a sparkle there.
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