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Oklahoma! was the first Rogers and Hammerstein musical and it is credited as setting the modern rules for musicals. Indeed the songs are related to the narrative and the 1943 show hasn’t dated. It is the third fundraising production in order to raise funds to help restore the Grade 1 listed Tyne Theatre and, just like the others, it is a fun show to watch.
Set in 1906 it has men who farm or herd cows, chasing women in pretty dresses, and fathers who will organise a shot gun wedding for the slightest approach to their daughter.
The show opens with the fabulous vocal talent of Ollie Cook as Curly singing Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ whilst Aunt Eller (Bea Atkinson) looks on. The target of his affection Laurey, performed by the charismatic Leigh Geddes joins in with the great singing talent of both Ollie and Bea for The Surrey with the Fringe on Top. The show is off to a great start.
Photo: Stagedoor Photography
We meet Peter Brack as the ladies farm hand Jud Fry and his rich deep voice was perfect for the song Lonely Room just before the interval. There is the travelling salesman Ali (Michael Geddes) who has been involved with Ado Annie (JoJo Hatfield). The trouble is Ado Annie is supposed to be with Will Parker (Steve Halliday) who has just won $50 and her father Andrew (Michael Green) assumes it will be spent on the wedding. Add in the flirtatious Gertie whose irritating laugh has been perfected by Harriet Stout and a box social event that the lads would like a date for and you’ve a recipe for some hi-jinks fun and serious battles.
A feature of Tyne Theatre Productions is the large orchestra, under musical director Jennifer Wagstaff, that takes full advantage of the great acoustics of the opera house.They added a vitality to the proceedings.
The production team have done a great job. Director Enid Bilton-Gale has kept the pace up on a long story. Celeste Hay and Jayne Orchard have crafted great choreography from the large cast.Tony Millican’s set design is highly effective and doesn’t hold up the action. The wardrobe department have managed to locate great outfits for the huge cast too.
Talking of the large cast, the show features a large talented chorus that get involved in the action whenever they’re on stage and a large number of gifted dancers too. The dancers have to pull off the slightly weird and dreamy ballet sequence at the end of act 1.
Oklahoma! is another entertaining show that puts some bigger budget shows to shame. Representing great value, it is nice to know that the profits will be reinvested into restoring the historic cultural venue. A great cast, live music and fabulous songs like the title song and What A Beautiful Mornin’ – what is not to like?
Review by Stephen Oliver(Follow on Twitter @panic_c_button)