Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Oklahoma! May 26, 2018 ****

Music by Richard Rodgers; book & lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book based on the play, Green Grow The Lilacs, by Lynn Riggs
By The Production Company 
At State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until June 3, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert (on May 26, 2018) 
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online, Mon May 28, 2018, & in print May 29. KH
Anna O’Byrne, Simon Gleeson pic im Carrafa
Oklahoma! premiered in 1943, but it remains a masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘book musical’ with Richard Rodgers’ inspired score and Oscar Hammerstein II’s clever lyrics integrated into a romantic narrative about farmers and cowboys, set in 1906.

Chris Parker’s production is joyful and celebratory, with a fine orchestra, talented ensemble and two exceptional singers playing the romantic leads: Simon Gleeson as cowman, Curly, and Anna O’Byrne as Laurey, farm girl and Curly’s love interest.

There is a ripple of excitement at the start, when the audience hears Gleeson singing off-stage, Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, and the exhilaration escalates when he delivers a spirited version of The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, with O’Byrne and Robyn Nevin as hilariously feisty Aunt Eller.

Gleeson’s resonant tones, extensive range and impeccable vocal control combine with his sassy, nuanced characterisation to create a charming, heroic Curly.

O’Byrne’s classical soprano is perfect for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s tunes, with her clear, beautiful and joyful delivery and enthralling upper register.

Gleeson and O’Byrne’s voices blend faultlessly in the playful duet, People Will Say We’re in Love, and their chemistry makes Curly and Laurey’s burgeoning but intense relationship believable.

Act Two is less consistent than the first, but it compensates for any bumps with the final, rousing chorus of Oklahoma!, with its stirring score and thrilling harmonies.

The onstage orchestra, under Guy Simpson, stylishly plays Rodgers’ soaring music, Isaac Lummis’s costumes capture the period with pastel, frilly petticoats partnered with plaid, denim and leather, while Amy Campbell’s choreography is vivacious, incorporating Agnes De Mille’s original ballet.
 Bobby Fox, Robyn Nevin-pic Tim Carrafa
Elise McCann is suitably flirty and mercurial as Ado Annie, singing I Cain’t Say No, while Bobby Fox is audacious as her love-addled beau, Will Parker, and commands the stage, dancin’ and singin’ in Kansas City.

Grant Piro is mischievous as saucy pedlar, Ali Hakim, and Ben Mingay’s rich baritone and menacing performance make the outcast Jud Fry villainous and frightening.

Oklahoma! depicts an America long-gone, but the consummate tunes, lyrics and style of Rodgers and Hammerstein live on in this rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ musical.

by Kate Herbert

Directed - Chris Parker
Musical Direction - Guy Simpson
Choreography - Amy Campbell (Original dances by Agnes De Mille)
Set - Dale Ferguson
Costumes Isaac Lummis
Lighting - Matt Scott

Simon Gleeson - Curly
Anna O’Byrne - Laurey
Elise McCann –Ado Annie Carnes
Bobby Fox – Will Parker
Robyn Nevin – Aunt Eller Murphy
Ben Mingay – Jud Fry
Richard Piper – Andrew Carnes
Grant Piro – Ali Hakim
Greg Stone – Ike Skidmore.

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