Review: Oklahoma!

Ashley Day as Curly and Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma. Pic: Comp
Ashley Day as Curly and Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma. Pic: Comp
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IT set the standard for all American musicals to follow, but 72 years after it debuted in 1943, Oklahoma! remains a ripe musical harvest.

* * * *

Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street

An easy, undemanding farce about hicks fighting over hussies, its brilliance rests in its simplicity. It has the perfect blend of songs, dialogue and choreography.

Decades on, however, the sets look as though they come from the Ikea factory, the lighting gives the impression performers are sat under a giant sunlamp, while the dark sexual undertones – taboo at the time – appear just as odd and sinister as they did back in the 40s.

We shouldn’t forget, though, that this is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first project together - but then, who could when toothy-grinning cowboy, Curly (Ashley Day) opens the show with the classic Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin.

It doesn’t stay beautiful for long in the build up to the box social barn, which, in turn, leads to a showdown over the auctioning of lunch baskets. The real question is, will Curly get to take Laurey (Charlotte Wakefield) to the box social? Or will she spurn him for creepy farmhand brute, Jud, out of spite?

Set in Oklahoma territory in 1906, old-timers Aunt Eller and Andrew Carnes (Belinda Lang and Paul Grunert) are the comedians of the piece. Hussy-with-a-heart, Ado Annie (Lucy May Barker) is a riot of fits ‘n’ giggles. And Gary Wilmot, puts in a typically charismatic shift as Persian wares-peddler Ali Hakim. Spare a thought, too, for Nic Greenshields, whose impressive operatic pipes makes Jud even more intimidating than he already is.

This Oklahoma! stands the test of time.

Run ends tomorrow