Chichester Festival Theatre
And so the Chichester Summer Season opens with Oklahoma !, that well-loved Rodgers and Hammerstein 40s musical with feel-good rousing songs. This spectacular production launches on the stage with an enthusiastic, youthful. energetic cast. From the wonderful opening “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” scene, the audience are transported to life on the prairie in the 1900s where values are basic and loyalties unashamedly simple.
A dream ballet sequence closes the first half which throws the audience into complete shock and then in complete contrast, at the opening of the second half, the entire cast gets ready for a Hoedown. The Chichester stage has never been more alive and full of energy Matt Cole’s choreography is fantastic! Makes you want to reach for your cowboy hat and boots. The director, Jeremey Sams, certainly has achieved a hugely vibrant show with his young cast.
Oklahoma! fundamentally is a simple story about love, rivalry and decisions. Sitting through the performance you are reminded of such wonderful songs like “People Will Say We’re in Love”, “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “Kansas City”. The ending is predictable but nonetheless uplifting with the good guys getting their gals. Perhaps the accents were at times a bit grating but the all-round talent of the cast was amazing. The audience were waiting to jump to their feet joining in with the obvious Oklahoma! reprise
I’m sure this production will act as a springboard for these young stars. offering them a solid platform for their future careers. Curly, the loveable rancher turning farmer, was played by a talented Hyoie O’Grady and his friend, yet arch love rival, Jud Fry was superbly played by Emmanuel Kojo whose rendition of Lonely Room was one of the best moments of the show. Their love interest Laurey was played by Amara Okereke certainly a star of the future with her wonderful voice and amazing portrayal of a young girl in love.
Isaac Gryn plays with great enthusiasm the eager to please lover, Will Parker, who’s desperate to get his gal, and Bronté Barbé bubbles over with fun and giggles as Ado Annie, the girl who just can’t say no to any affection. Josie Lawrence is well cast as Aunt Eller and offers a commanding performance with great comedic moments. Scott Karim offers plenty of laughs too as the Persian peddler Ali Hakim, a guy who gets far more interest than he bargained for with the local maidens. In all fairness, the whole cast deserves to be congratulated on bringing this classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical to vibrant life.
Do go see this wonderful Summer production, you will not be disappointed and will be searching for the nearest Hoedown to relive the magic created on stage.
Reviewer: Sandra Jenkins