Revamping such a classic like this takes guts, but was seen as necessary to bring Oklahoma! to modern audiences. Now transferred to Wyndham's Theatre, a colourful and eye-catching set, littered with guns, takes you to a time were cowboys and farmers were long known rivals yet sharing the lands of America. Without changing the original text, Rogers and Hammerstein's work lives on, as fresh and tension-filled as ever.
For those unfamiliar, the plot basis follows Curly McLain (played by Arthur Darvill) and Judd Fry (Patrick Vaill) on a quest for love, determined to fight for the love of the most desired girl in the area, Laurey Williams (Anoushka Lucas). Alongside, the ultimate flirt, Ado Annie (Georgina Onuorah) is debating which man to marry, as the addition of travelling salesman, Ali Hakim (Stavros Demetraki) spices up the choices, when former lover, Will Parker (James Patrick Davis) is still on the scene. To put it clearly, with direction by Daniel Fish, the show is an unravelling of relationships -with lots of kissing- portrayed quite unlike anything else.
Opening with the great song, 'Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'', Darvill is first to present some stunning vocals across the musical, with Liza Sadovy as Aunt Ellen following. Initially, it feels as if the establishment of characters takes a while, though Lucas immediately makes her mark in a leading role, with her dainty or fiery personality, depending on who you are to her. Onuorah too leaves a lasting impression, as her rendition of 'I Cain't Say No' conveys her power in those growls and riffs, all while commencing the funny moments in the piece, particularly when picking on the front row. The titular track 'Oklahoma' steals the show to round up the ending, and solidifies the reasoning behind the lengthy life of the production (and leave you humming it all the way home).
Not for those with a nervous disposition, unexpected gunshots are scattered about both acts, with total blackouts also occurring, which are strangely disorientating, yet grippingly immersive. The stark lighting contrasts by Scott Zielinski adds an appealing dynamic to the staging, as the bright whites over the audience and fantastic band in front of the stage transform into deep reds or greens to enhance the drama. Further elements such as smoke machines and handheld filming create varying emotions to convey throughout the performance. However, as a traditional production, it has a somewhat extensive runtime, and therefore the lack of adventurous set pieces to boost engagement as the plot progresses in the same space. Furthermore, a beautiful contemporary interpretive dance by Marie-Astrid Mence starts act two, though arguably the break in story disrupts the fluency of the overall show.
Have yourself a purdy good time at Oklahoma! should you take the time to visit this time round. With a plethora of rave reviews under its belt and decades of accomplishments, it might be worth the trip to see if the long-established production is to your taste.