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Review of Oklahoma! at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

My musical theatre crash course continued this week with Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! Although it came with the territory of sitting in a theatre seemingly more often than at home, its safe to say that the musical side of it has been one of the greater revelations. Having now seen more musicals in the last few months than I had in the proceeding thirty seven years, I have sort of been converted.

Oklahoma! like the exceptional South Pacific I saw last year was entirely new to me as a complete package. However like SP, many of the tunes were well known from, well somewhere I know not. From the uplifting and heart rising "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'" to the bold and celebratory Oklahoma! itself, these songs were classics even if I had never seen the package they were weaved around.

For myself there was also the comfort blanket of two actors who had very much been about during my time growing up. Both the effortless Gary Wilmot and the delightful Belinda Lang, while far from the lead characters of the musical bought a glow from yesteryear for me. The long remembered comic timing of the pair were still there glowing. They have many of the funnier lines which helps of course, particular Wilmot's character Ali Hakim when he is trying to avoid getting love trapped, "You mind your own business!" Lang's Aunt Eller also has a pitch perfect classic moment wielding that shotgun.

My two stars however are the support in Oklahoma!, as the true leads are the younger members of the company. They are also quality throughout. From the opening moments Ashley Day as Curly and his performance of "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'" to his sparring with the wonderful tomboy Laurey (as excellent feisty Charlotte Wakefield) commands the scenes he is in. Well except perhaps those with Nic Greenshields, because in those, the tall and menacing actor portrays the baddie of the piece Jud Fry with a vice grip. The scene in his shed where at first Day is in charge, soon becomes Fry's and his performance of "Lonely Room" for me is exceptional. The final star I would mention is Lucy May Barker as Ado Annie Carnes. Her turn is comic at high velocity as she seeks a man, another man, and one more, and then another. "I Cain't Say No!" is performed superbly, hysterically and bloomer flashing gloriously!

The choreographer from Drew McOnie is also exceptional. The highlight without doubt the exceptionally complex dream sequence, fusing ballet, contemporary and bum on bale rolling sounds odd, but works as a visual feast. Spinning through the happy dream to the nightmarish end, it is without doubt the highlight of the show.

So once again I have been won over by a musical and I suspect that this fine version of the classic is going to fill an awful lot of seats as it progresses through its twenty-one stop tour. There certainly isn't any reason I can see not to see it. Indeed it would be a scandal if you missed it!


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Performance reviewed: Wednesday 25th February, 2015 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Oklahoma! is on at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 28th February, 2015 before touring until the 8th August, 2015. Details can be found at http://www.oklahomatour.co.uk/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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