Oklahoma!

Tue 17th – Sat 21st January 2012

reviews

Julia Chapman

at 14:36 on 18th Jan 2012

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One of the greatest challenges of DULOG’s annual Gala musical is a perpetual attempt to surpass the accomplishments of the previous year’s performance. In this year’s Oklahoma!, DULOG somehow managed the impossible by creating a production, although less spectacle and more sentiment than The Producers, even more wildly entertaining than its predecessor.

Revolving around a reluctant romance between cowboy Curly McLain and the object of his affections, Laurey Williams, Oklahoma! is a heartfelt tale with a less heartfelt attitude towards outsiders. With Aunt Eller (played by the excellent Kate Hunter) overseeing the antics of youngsters in rural Oklahoma Territory at the turn of the century, cowboys and farmers fight for the women they love.

Off to a slow start, Oklahoma!’s early musical numbers were rather lacklustre. However, the pace picked up eventually and the cavity-inducing sweetness of the immensely talented Guy Huges and Elissa Churchill riveted everyone’s attention. The rapport between their characters Curly and Laurey was exceptional; their chemistry and physical comedy prevented their relationship from the dullness that could so easily be manifested by such a picture-perfect couple. The scene in which Curly gives up everything he has in the world in order to afford to outbid Jud for Laurey’s basket was genuinely heartbreaking.

It was Oklahoma!’s darker undertones, however, that saved the show from mere frivolity. David Stodel was a subtle, brooding Jud, the Boo Radley character of the show, although less misunderstood than justifiably prejudiced against. The incongruous dark streak of his pathological love for Laurey and his ill treatment at the hands of others added another dimension to the show which alone made the whole production worth watching.

The intimate moment between Curly and Jud in the smokehouse, in which Curly nearly manages to convince Jud to commit suicide, was touching in the latter’s naïveté but eerie and unsettling once sympathy could be directed towards his character. ‘Pore Jud is Daid’ was surprisingly one of the musical highlights of the production. The glimpse into Jud’s world, complete with vintage nude postcards, provided just enough pathos to balance out the rest of the production. Hughes’ unavoidably likeable Curly exercising his cruelty over Jud ensured that the inevitable happy ending was undermined by the shadow of his unkind actions.

One of the most remarkable performances was by Felix Stevenson, who surely left no one unconvinced of the powers of fake tan to transform someone to an entirely different race. Sarah Peters’ cameo as Gertie Cummings clad in what must have been a Little Bo Peep costume was likewise very funny. The endearing relationship between Alex Wingfield’s Will and Nat Goodwin’s Ado Annie, coloured by their guileless natures, provided some of the show’s best comic moments, including Ado Annie’s ‘I Cain’t Say No’ and the pair’s ‘All er Nothin’ as highlights.

Attention must also be paid to the choreography, particularly in the Dream Ballet sequence, a little play-within-a-play in which the story of Oklahoma! plays out with a marked difference in result. The vignette was truly enthralling and the entire ensemble involved deserves to be lauded for it. The set featured a lovely, if everlasting, sunset and lay the stage perfectly for the performance.

As a musical, Oklahoma! is somewhat wanting, but with their unfailing professionalism DULOG conjured a charming, funny, nuanced and highly enjoyable performance which was simply outstanding!

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