Nearly 80 years since it hit Broadway and 65 years since its hugely successful film adaptation scooped an Oscar, Oklahoma remains a firm favourite for amateur theatre companies everywhere.
SOSage Factory, the youth arm of Solihull on Stage (SOS), delivers this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic at a level any theatre group could be proud of.
The group has a pedigree for producing quality shows and it’s impossible not to go with high expectations but this show exceeds them yet again.
Set in the early 1900s, this whimsical tale of love between a cowboy and a farm girl still has a real charm about it. It’s hard to imagine someone more suited to the role of the handsome cowboy Curly than Charlie Loughran, who is simply excellent from the moment he enters the stage singing the iconic Oh What a Beautiful Morning.
Loughran has an effortless voice with a beautiful tone and he holds the stage brilliantly. Every note is bang on and this is an extremely accomplished leading man performance.
He’s well matched by Anna Sutton as the hard-to-get farm girl Laurey, who also has a lovely tone to her voice and portrays her character’s combination of innocence and sass with real skill.
Eliza Clark does a brilliant job of ageing up as the spirited matriarch Aunt Eller and James Newman does a grand job as the Persian peddler Ali Hakim, showing real maturity to land his character’s comedy.
There’s a real standout performance from Kathryn Ritchie who is superb as Ado Annie. Her stage presence, voice and acting are all exceptional and this performance wouldn’t look remotely out of place in an adult production of the show.
Dan Bradbury is strong as the simple but good-hearted Will Parker and Ross Evans makes for a menacing Jud Fry, who challenges Curly for Laurey’s affections. Loughran and Evans' voices sound delightful together in Pore Jud is Dead.
Elsewhere there’s strong support from Erin Craddock who gives a lovely performance as Gertie Cummings, with perhaps the most annoying laugh anyone has ever heard on stage. And Ruairi Silcock does well as Ado Annie’s father, who is eager to marry her off to the highest bidder.
Each and every member of the society puts their all into the numbers and the energy and enthusiasm of the chorus is once again one of the production's biggest assets. The Dream Sequence and Oklahoma are both particularly strong numbers.
Sarah Golby’s choreography is not dumbed down for the youngsters and they cope with it really well. And Mel O’Donnell’s band ably belts out the show's familiar soundtrack.
Oklahoma is seen by some as a stuffy, old-fashioned has-been of a production, but this is an iconic show which many regard as paving the way for modern musicals. And SOSage’s production shows there’s plenty of life and entertainment for audience in this old dog yet.
Well done to everyone involved in another triumph.
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