The new touring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre last night. The musical is the fourth by the recently formed Music & Lyrics Ltd, led by John Stalker, a former Chief Executive of the Festival Theatre, and co-produced by the Royal & Derngate, Northampton.
The musical was first performed on Broadway in 1943, and quickly became a huge success. It is set in what was the troubled American Midwest region, and the plot culminates in the forming of the 46th state of the Union, Oklahoma.
The fast-moving plot, superb score, and catchy songs ensure that the audience is immediately engrossed.
Belinda Lang plays Aunt Eller, the matriarch who binds the characters together. The young lovers Curly (Ashley Day) and Laurey (Charlotte Wakefield) are perfectly matched.
Lucy May Barker is a joy as the giddy Ado Annie, with her complicated love life, involving the cowboy Will Parker (James O’Connell), and the seasoned performer Gary Wilmot’s comical Ali Hakim, the peddler.
There is a host of well-known marvellous songs, brilliantly performed by the various soloists and other members of the ensemble, and of course there are numerous dances, also performed by the singers. The choreographer, Drew McOnie, has plenty of scope to show his talents, and apart from the incidental dances, there is the long ‘dream sequence’, the presentation of which underlines the skill and energy of the cast.
The versatile wooden set is a perfect backdrop, and the skeleton of the new school-house for which Aunt Elly is raising funds, is used to great effect for the boisterous ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ at the beginning of Act 2. There was even a ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top’ to transport Curly and Laurey on their honeymoon at the end.
The production, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, is as professional as you would expect from such an accomplished theatre company, and is highly recommended.