Theatre Review: Oklahoma

This excellent cast do justice to Hammerstein’s brilliant score

Presented by: Gilbert & Sullivan Society 

Reviewed: 23 May, 2024

The first musical collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II  premiered in 1943 and it has been a favourite ever since. Set in 1906 whilst the colonisation of Indian territories was still occurring. It is full of tension and quarrels, community problems which are still relevant today. It examines the prejudices and social issues of the time (not so different from today). All of this is wrapped around a love story or two served with a helping of comedy and some beautiful music.

This production is very different from past versions that I have seen, the director has tried to give a more scaled-down look. The set is very basic, not that I mind that but it is also boring. To be fair it works but it is certainly not engaging. The costumes were also unexpected. A mixture of farm clothes, I think intended to be not specific to any era but too muddled for my taste.

The cast is very good, all in fine voice and there were some fine characterisations, they do justice to Hammerstein’s lyrics savouring the comedy and exposing the ominous undertones.

Daniel Hamilton is a fine Curly and sparks well with Sophie Stokes as Laurey. They also pair very well in the duets. The other lovebirds Cassidy Gaiter (Ado Annie) and Jason Bensen (Will Parker) have a lot of fun with the clever script and enjoy the laughter.

Carolyn Ferrie delivers Aunt Eller with just the right amount of reserve and James McCluskey-Garcia is as irascible as you expect Andrew Carnes to be. As the peddler, Ali Hakim, Robin Schemzkopf gets his share of the laughs. Bethany Eloise’s Gertie Cummings sure does have an annoying laugh.

Fahad Farooque is broodingly wonderful as Jud Fry, he is threatening and very believable. The smokehouse scene between Jud and Curly is well done, menacing, and also funny. The choreography by Vanessa Redmond is well executed throughout but the Dream Ballet, so hard to do, is beautiful. Kudos to the leads (Laurey, Curly, and Jud) who made it look good.

The wonderful score is played by Musical Director, Daniel Brunner, and Martin Cheney on two keyboards and could not have been better. The piano playing style fitted the Western feel and supported the singers well.

I know the director. Richard Trevaskis wanted to give the production a new feel, less “cutesie’ than before, but the lack of colour and light did nothing for me, but I still love Oklahoma.

Reviewed by: Fran Edwards

Venue: The Arts Theatre
Season: Until 1 June, 2024
Tickets: From $23.00

Disclaimer: Daniel Hamilton is a member of the Glam Adelaide arts review team.

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