This year’s Footlights Northcott offering is a production of the one and only Oklahoma. With music and libretto by the ineffable Rodgers and Hammerstein, for years the show has been a complete critical and commercial success. Footlights’ offering is certainly a success, even if it is so with some hesitation.
The tale is old as time, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, neither party wishes to admit this to the other and so ignore it. There’s the obligatory bad guy in the form of Jud, who is also vying for Laurey’s affection, and there’s comic relief thanks to the Ado Annie, Ali Hakim, and Will Parker love triangle. Throw in some husband crazed women and men after as much as they can get and damn: you’ve got yourself a musical.
the creative team had hoped to introduce a more feminist agenda so as to alleviate some of the rampant misogyny
It has to be noted that the creative team behind Oklahoma cannot be blamed for just how bland the plot is. The story is dated and at times boring, but this is by no means a reflection on those involved in this production. For what the script provided, the staging is very beautiful. The choreography, courtesy of Kathryn Pridgeon, is extremely graceful and pretty to look at even if at times repetitive. It is clearly evident in the fluidity of the routines that every cast member has worked incredibly hard and really know the numbers by heart. Even so, act one was at times too aesthetically pleasing; style over substance perhaps.
Musically, the production was as equally beautiful. The orchestra was sublime and the strength of the singing, individual and ensemble, was incredible.
Humour burst on stage in the form of Stuart Duncan’s Ali Hakim and the brilliant Lucy Harris as Ado Annie Carnes. Matched with the seemingly limitless energy of Harry Elliot’s Will Parker (seriously how did he manage those jumps?), it provided the necessary excitement to lift the dreariness of the rest of the plot.
The choreography, courtesy of Kathryn Pridgeon, is extremely graceful and pretty to look at
There’s much to be said about Jacob Hutching’s Jud Fry. Apparently the villain of the piece, I’d say act one Jud has more in common with Lennie from Of Mice and Men than a bad guy. Of course, act two Jud ramps it up a little and then conveniently stabs himself to death. This being said, Hutchings portrayed the character amazingly. Jud is shown as a person far more complex than Curly, Laurey, or any of the others give him credit for, and I don’t think a character has provoked more sympathy from me than Jud when Curly is singing about the advantages of suicide.
There were some truly great moments, everyone looked and sounded beautiful
It is obvious, when watching, that Oklahoma was written many moons ago but yet I’d heard whispers that the creative team had hoped to introduce a more feminist agenda so as to alleviate some of the rampant misogyny. Personally, I didn’t really see it, but it’s understandable that adapting such a robust text is one hell of a challenge.
To conclude, my overall judgement is that it was fine. There were some truly great moments, everyone looked and sounded beautiful. The story was just a bit dull and at times the staging felt more like a musical show case. There were slight elements of ah yes now we dance and then I shall sing and then we will act; it wasn’t very integrated. Given the difficulties of such a text, the cast and creative teams obviously worked extremely hard and ought to be proud of themselves.