Oklahoma – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Oklahoma – Review

Bradford Alhambra, April 2015

by Sandra Callard

No messing about here, I’m going in all guns blazing. This new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbuster, Oklahoma, is nigh on the best musical theatre you will see this year. The cast is superb, a truly slick and professional ensemble. You feel right from the start that you are in for something special. This cast does not miss a beat as it acts, sings and dances its glorious way into the hearts of the audience at the Bradford Alhambra. The show is a nationwide tour of this most famous and loved of the wonderful musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

oklahoma yorkshire theatreWritten in 1943, with a score that still stands as a bench mark for composers and lyricists, Oklahoma is a giant of a musical. So, why so special? Well, it did what no musical show had done previously. It told a story that touched on themes which were previously taboo. The sexual fantasies and mental disintegration of Jud Fry sit darkly alongside the joy and beauty of the Oklahoma sun. The unpredictable and violent Jud is played compellingly by Nic Greenshields, a huge man with a magnificent baritone voice. His rendering of ‘Lonely Room’ is heartbreaking as Greenshields manages to reveal Jud’s pain and elicit sympathy for his wasted life.

“Wonderful comedy moments”

Belinda Lang gives a wonderful performance as farm boss, Aunt Eller. Her scrawny figure holds the power and respect in the homestead. All her movements mimic a very old lady, but she steps lightly and easily onto the stage at curtain call. This confirms her convincing performance.

oklahoma bradford alhambraThere are two love triangles on stage; the clean-cut Curley and the sinister Jud, who both love Laurey. Then there’s the man-loving girl, Ado Annie, who lusts after cowhand Will and the smart pattering peddler, Ali. Ashley Day’s Curley is mesmeric from the moment his voice is heard offstage singing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’. His voice is first class and his balletic dancing has assurance and power. Charlotte Wakefield plays Laurey and she is the perfect foil for Curley. Dressed in leather trousers, rather than the usual frilly cowgirl dress, she is feisty and confused. Afraid that her love for Curley will destroy her burgeoning longing for women’s rights.

Ado Annie’s character is given full reign by Lucy May Barker. She wonders why she ‘Caint Say No’. Gary Wilmot perfectly plays the reluctant peddler. He adds some wonderful comedy moments as he tries to shake off the determined Annie. Annie’s true love, Will, played by the talented James O’Connell, brings some athletic and innovative dancing to the stage, which really is quite astounding.

ohlahoma revew alhambra

“Barely a fault”

This is a beautiful production doing credit to Rodgers and Hammerstein at their exuberant best. The company excels itself with barely a fault amongst them. The sets are, for once, refreshingly normal. No bare and forbidding blank walls here, but scenes which actually look like an Oklahoma ranch.

The songs are all classics in their own right and form a truly remarkable score. It is no wonder that Oklahoma, when it became accepted as the 46th state of the Union in 1907, adopted the song ‘Oklahoma’, as their State anthem. See it if you can. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

images: Pamela Raith

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