Oklahoma is undoubtedly up there with the classic musicals of all time but this evening, Studley Operatic Society breathed new life into this traditional show! The timeless melodies of Richard Rodgers were brought to life by a fantastic orchestra under the baton of Musical Director Norma Kift. It was just a pity more of the audience did not stop talking to listen to the wonderful overture.
Kevin Hirons (Director) assisted by Alison Hirons showed great attention to detail in their production. It was lovely to see an original take on several moments within the show to give it relevance to today’s audience and to keep the musical fresh and alive. I particularly liked the staging of People Will Say We’re in Love as it showed both a great relationship between the principal actors as well as bringing out an element of comedy I’d not really seen before.
The Dream Ballet was the best I have seen in any Oklahoma production – it told the story, made complete sense and was well lit with interesting and varied choreography. Donna Rhodes (Choreographer) worked wonders in scenes such as The Farmer and the Cowman, staging some excellent choreography on a small stage with a huge cast – a massive feat of planning I’m sure. The set was good but extremely large and this meant limited space in many of the scenes, but the cast coped well with this added challenge.
There were many great performances from an enthusiastic company, so the entire team should be proud of the standard of performance that they have achieved. However, I must mention some stand-out performances.
Liz Bird (Aunt Eller) was never out of character and gave such wonderfully captivating facial expressions, a real treat to watch. Paul Mitchell gave an assured performance as Curly and demonstrated excellent vocal ability, singing with an ease and confidence that suited the character perfectly. He was well matched with Sophie Hill who gave a pleasing performance as Laurey.
Adding comedy and great characterisation to the production as Ado Annie was Jessica Horabin who acted the role perfectly with the right amount of both humour and vulnerability. Alex McDonald-Smith was an excellent Will Parker who sang and danced his way confidently through the part. Further comedy was added to the production by Hugh Duck as Ali Hakim with a laugh-out-loud moment being his “Persian hello”.
I was extremely impressed by Matt Bridgwater’s portrayal of Jud Fry. His performance showed a vulnerable side to the character and made us really understand why Jud behaved as he did and made his ultimate demise more poignant. The Poor Jud is Daid duet was particularly well executed by both Jud and Curly.
Congratulations to all at Studley Operatic Society on a fresh and vibrant performance of an old-time classic.
Oklahoma runs at The Palace Theatre, Redditch until Saturday 28th April.
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