The Bristol Hippodrome
Tuesday 14th – Saturday 18th July 2015
One of my happy childhood memories is of my Father singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” as we headed off in the car for a family outing but I have to admit I had no idea it was the opening song from Oklahoma! until Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical arrived at The Bristol Hippodrome this week.
OKLAHOMA!, with music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, was based on the Lynn Riggs play Green Grow the Lilacs and was the first musical written by the duo. It was originally produced on Broadway in 1943 and the Academy Award-winning film was released in 1955.
Set in the Oklahoma territory in 1906, thirteen years after the Oklahoma Land Rush and a year before this Midwest region became the 46th State of the Union, the musical tells the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers. Cowboy Curly loves Laurey, Aunt Eller’s niece, but Curly’s rival is the mysterious and dangerous hired hand Jud Fry. Meanwhile, Ado Annie is torn between cowboy Will and peddler Ali Hakim. Their stories are told with the help of well known songs, including Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey With the Fringe on Top, and of course, Oklahoma.
The stage is clad in rough timber, like the walls of a giant barn. The turn of the century period is established by use of historical props such as a water pumping windmill, iconic of the great plains, a laundry mangel as well as the costumes.
Curley (Ashley Day) comes straight in singing Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ in a beautiful rounded voice and is joined by Laurey (Charlotte Wakefield). They set a high bar for the singing throughout.
The vocal amplification levels are a little low compared to the orchestra, especially in the first half and I hope this will be quickly ironed out but the quality of all the singers is high.
Their American accents are convincing – I don’t find myself remembering the actors are putting the accents on.
Dancing ranges from good old thigh slapping, petticoat swishing barn dancing to graceful ballet.
Despite the age of the score, the well written humour shines through as fresh. We laugh frequently during the show: at Ado’s delivery of funny song I Cain’t Say No!, at scene’s like her father’s insistence on a shotgun wedding to an unsuitable suitor and at classic lines like Will Parker’s desperate attempt to rein in the wayward behaviour of his new fiancee:
“Now you’re engaged to me you gotta stop having fun!”
There’s a good story line and characters are well developed – Jud is exposed as a bit of a nutter during a sinister scene when Curley is trying to sell suicide as a pretty option but the darkness is soon overtaken by humour again.
Our party ranges from 8 year old child to grandparents. Everybody enjoys the show and as we exit I hear other audience members saying how good it was. There are dark moments, a burlesque dancing scene and fleeting moments of (fully clothed) sexual violence, but there’s a lot going on at the same time and these scenes are handled in such a way that the children aren’t shocked or upset. We don’t dwell on the darker moments as they’re soon overtaken by the fun and energy of subsequent scenes. The happy ending means we all leave the theatre on such a high that when they offer their feedback, they only focus on the elements which combine to make the show so enjoyable, like the historical props and costumes, convincing accents and energetic dancing.
Despite the inclusion of more adult themes, I would happily take my eight year old to see Oklahoma again.
A full-bodied show with a mix of humour, violence and love. The set isn’t as slick as some of the other classic shows we’ve seen and the fact that there’s no real gimmick in Oklahoma! doesn’t matter one jot. The combination of a well written story, rounded characters, good music, high quality singers, dancers and actors means we’re all engrossed from start to finish in this great feel-good show. I can’t single out individual cast members for praise as they are a uniformly strong team. At the end of the title song in the encore, I’m happy to stand with the rest of the audience and yell a final enthusiastic “Yeow!” Highly recommended.
CAST & CREDITS
From the award-winning producers of the highly successful tours of The King and I and Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahona, stars Belinda Lang, Gary Wilmot, Ashley Day & Charlotte Wakefield and features Lucy May Barker as Ado Annie, Simon Anthony as Will Parker, Paul Grunert as Andrew Carnes, Kara Lane as Gertie Cummings, Christopher D Hunt as Cord Elam and Barnaby Thompson as Ike Skidmore. Also in the cast are Christina Bennington, Robbie Boyle, Katie Marie-Carter, Lisa Dent, Emilie du Leslay, Ian Gareth-Jones, Hannah Grace, Ross Lee Fowkes, Perry O’Dea, Sasi Strallen and Gabriella Stylianou. They join the previously announced Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller, Gary Wilmot as Ali Hakim, Ashley Day as Curly, Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey and Nic Greenshields as Jud Fry.
The production, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and with new choreography by Drew McOnie is currently touring the UK and Ireland. Live orchestra with Musical Supervision by Stephen Ridley, set and costumes will be designed by Francis O’Connor, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Ben Harrison.
Tuesday 14th July- Saturday 18th July
Evenings at 7.30pm
Matinees on Wed, Thur &S at 2.30pm
Tickets: £12.90- £43.40
Concessions available at certain performances
ENJOYED MY OKLAHOMA FAMILY REVIEW? THEN WHY NOT CHECK OUT OTHER SHOW REVIEWS ON PRACTICALLY PERFECT MUMS?
DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN.