Oklahoma! by Rogers and Hammerstein is considered one of the major American musicals to change the style and fortunes of American musical theatre from the mid 1940s to what we enjoy today. Oklahoma! is presently seventy years old and still as popular as ever.
With this youthful production by Nottingham Operatic Society, directed by musical stalwart, Steve Williams, it seems that regardless of your age there is plenty to enjoy. Even before the show starts we are presented with a huge map of the USA painted on the gauze. As we scan the various states it comes across just how massive a land mass it is and makes you consider how different the world might have been in the America of the characters in Oklahoma!.
For those that are already familiar with the show there is the expectation of ranch hand Curly singing the most famous song of all – 'Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' – and it is sung with great warmth and assurance by handsome new member, Junior Harding. Harding makes Curly instantly likeable and like most of the characters in this show, someone we care about . As the story begins we want to know if he is going to get together with the girl of his dreams. The girl in question is the pretty but aloof Laurey, played and sung to perfection by Nottingham Operatic Society newcomer Lauren Gill performing her début with the Society.
Others of note are Alison Hope as the warm hearted and concerned Aunt Eller, Simon Theobold sympathetic and humorous as the hopeless pedlar Ali Akim and Grace Gallagher utterly lovable as flirtations and gullible Ado Annie. Gallagher's rendition of 'I Cain't Say No!' is one of the highlights of the show. It is a very strong ensemble that work well during the top notch choral singing and display great humour throughout but, the strongest performance came thundering out of the 'villain' Judd played with superb conviction and depth by Meng Khaw. His whole performance from his first deep grunt to his end said 'trouble' and his singing of the song 'Lonely Room' was chilling.
The entire cast seem to be having a ball and that - as they might say in Oklahoma – this is mighty comforting for the appreciative audience. We can sit back and relax. The performances are certainly augmented by some fabulous set pieces, from Aunt Eller's veranda to Judd's solid and sordid barn and to the more surreal dream sequence that takes us from corn field to bordello.
It is a large cast and they populate the stage well with their authentic cowboy and ladies period fashions. The choreographed numbers directed by Denis Palin are exceptionally good and feel natural to the piece, not tagged on and each performer comes across as an individual character.
For a wonderful, nostalgic night out at the theatre jump on your 'Surrey With A Fringe On Top' and trot down to see Oklahoma at Nottingham's Theatre Royal playing 6th to 9th November.