Performing Arts

Theatre Review: Oklahoma! (On A Farm)

The classic musical ‘Oklahoma!’ has been given a face lift by Emma Knights Productions. It is being performed out in the open on Littlehampton’s Four Oaks Farm.

Presented by Emma Knights Productions
Reviewed 6th January 2016

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Oklahoma! is a classic, redefining musical theatre for all time when it first burst onto the Broadway stage in the late 1940s. As such, there really was only one way to always present this iconic piece of American musical theatre: until now

Local producer, Emma Knights has pulled out all the stops with her version by presenting the entire show on a real farm, Four Oaks Farm, Littlehampton, complete with actors riding horses, horse traps, and even a surrey with the fringe on top. Knights doesn’t stop there: a country fair atmosphere with cake stalls, fried chicken, fresh produce, pony rides for the kiddies during interval and a round-a-bout all add to the wonderfully immersive atmosphere of this production.

The atmosphere sparks with the rousing overture played marvellously by the band (looking every bit truly Country and Western-fied), under the always excellent musical direction of Mark DeLaine and continues with Curly (Andrew Crispe) entering on horseback and flows effortlessly to the nice filmic finish.

Fiona DeLaine brings all of her knowledge of and expertise in musical theatre to directing this glorious production. She uses the beautiful Adelaide Hills scenery and location well with some lovely little touches all through out, and brings out the best in her superb cast; with choreographer, Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti also using the location and cast well for the dancer numbers.

This cast has been hand-picked, and one can see why. Crispe with his great voice and leading man charisma gives Hugh Jackman more than a run for his money as Curly; whilst Rebecca Raymond is strong as Laurey, both in character and vocals, blending beautifully in her duets with Crispe.

Wendy Rayner, whilst always giving good performances, absolutely sparkles as Aunt Eller; Charles Smith and Alana Shepherdson are delightful as quirky on again/off again couple Will Parker and Ado Annie, aided and abetted hilariously by Andrew Turner giving his best ever ‘Boris the Meerkat’ impression as Persian peddler, Ali Hakim; as slow loner Jud Fry, Michael Bates brings a humanity rarely seen in the portrayal of this character and his solo, My Room, is an eerie show-stopper.

Verity Colyer (got to love that laugh), James McCluskey-Garcia, Angus Smith, Josh Barkley, Melanie Smith and Serena Martino all expertly complete the fine cast.

The natural soundscape of nearby cattle mooing and the occasional local bird lending its voice only adds to this joyful experience; and huge congratulations must go to All Pro Audio for a sound that worked outdoors far better than many one hears inside theatres nowadays – it is crisp, clean and very well balanced.

This version of Oklahoma! is more than O.K. (l.a.h.o.m.a), it is B.R.I.L.L.I.A.N.T!!!

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue:  Four Oaks Farm  23 Downing Rd, Littlehampton 
Season: 7 – 10 January 2016
Duration: 2 hours with interval
Tickets: $25 – $43


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