Oklahoma!

".....a thought provoking, mind-blowing piece of theatre"

Entering the Wyndham's Theatre we are greeted by bright lights, coloured decorations hanging from the ceiling and walls adorned with shot-guns. The stage is bare except for a long table and a few chairs. Everything about this production has been stripped back, which allows the audience to focus on the text and meanings within. 

Oklahoma made it’s first Broadway premier in 1943 as the first ever “book musical”. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original text has not been altered at all, yet this revival feels completely new, fresh and like no ‘Oklahoma’ we’ve seen before. 

The direction from Daniel Fish is incredible, this is no longer a cheery musical with hoe-downs and petticoats. This is now a thought provoking, mind-blowing piece of theatre that will leave you knowing you have experienced something truly special. The musical direction from Daniel Kluger has given new life to the original songs, some with now slower tempos add to the new feel of the piece.

This revival production has been branded ‘sexy’ since it’s first iteration on Broadway in 2019 and it soon becomes clear there’s not much for the people to do in the state of Oklahoma except lust after other residents. 

The main story follows the love triangle of Laurey (Anoushka Lucas), Curly (Arthur Darvill) and Jud (Patrick Vaill), the three working wonderfully together to tell their story. Arthur plays Curly with the arrogance of a man about town who seems to get what he wants without working too hard at it. Patrick is outstanding as the damaged odd-ball Jud who lusts after the beautiful Laurey without a chance in hell of ever getting her. Anoushka is wonderfully doe-eyed as Laurey, flitting from strong spoken woman to love-struck teen so smoothly. 

The supporting cast in this show each do a wonderful job of bringing the show together, all with characters you would recognise from any old-style western movie; the ageing matriarch Aunt Eller (Liza Sadovy) who keeps everyone on the right side of things and reminds everyone just who is in charge. Our floozy with a heart of gold is Ado Annie (Georgina Onuorah) who blows the roof off with her rendition of ‘I Cain’t Say No'. Special mention must go to Lead Dancer (Marie-Astrid Mence) who opens Act 2 with the ‘Dream Ballet’. Her performance is showstopping, full of energy, passion and skill.  It’s a wonderful few minutes of storytelling. 

The real star of this show is the lighting design by Scott Zielinski. It’s not often lighting choices take your breath away but in this piece, they’re integral and hugely impactful. There are some moments where the entire auditorium is plunged into complete darkness, and you can only hear the actors on stage, meaning you are left with no choice but to really focus on the words and deal with any feelings that arise. It’s uncomfortable yet powerful and a brave choice which pays off. 

This is not a traditional ‘Oklahoma’, this is a modern, contemporary retelling of a classic. It’s dark, disturbing and brilliant!

This production was reviewed on the 27th February 2023.  Oklahoma! runs at the Wyndham's Theatre until the 2nd September 2023.  Tickets available here: Oklahoma! at Wyndham's Theatre (delfontmackintosh.co.uk)

Review written by Rosie Browne

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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