Review Round up: Oklahoma!, Young Vic Theatre

Discover what has been said about this revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, now playing at the Young Vic Theatre.

(c)Marc Brenner

The Financial Times: ***** “What makes the production is that it also fizzes with vibrant comedy. Wallace’s wonderful, spirited Ado Annie is well matched by James Davis, very funny as her none-too-bright fiancé Will, and by his commitment-phobic rival (Stavros Demetraki). The band, playing a stripped-back version of the score, are terrific, and the switches between light and shade, comedy and tragedy are deftly handled. Ending with a rousing, determined delivery of “Oklahoma!”, Fish’s staging celebrates this beloved musical while also finding more sinister truths in the story it tells about America.”

Time Out: **** “Fish has crafted something genuinely new and special from ‘Oklahoma!’, or perhaps excavated a truth about it that was there all along, but buried. It’s reconfigured as a smouldering parable of small-town suffocation, of people who dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do, and the inevitable consequences of letting that play out.”

iNews: **** “This is a raw refashioning both of a cherished show and American mythology: ingenious, and freshly thrilling.”

The Guardian: **** “But this is still a brave and invigorating show that effortlessly unearths the ugliness that has always glimmered beneath Oklahoma!’s beautiful morning.”

(c)Marc Brenner

The Reviews Hub: **** 1/2 “In this productIon, dark means very, very dark, as in the pivotal confrontation between Curly and Jud, projected with menacing close-ups onto a large wall. In the second act, the darkness very briefly drains the show of its momentum and it makes transitions back to a celebratory mood feel awkward, but, overall, the directors’ bold emphasis pays rich dividends.”

Broadway World:**** “A range of impressive performances is vital to the production’s stylish gutsiness. Lucas and Darvill are at their soulful best when they amplify and play around the charged affection between their characters, as in their layered take on “People Will Say We’re in Love.” Vaill brings conspicuous nuance into his portrayal of the outsider Jud, turning him into a vulnerable character ultimately crippled by his unrequited love.”

Culture Whisper: **** “It’s not a perfect production but it earns its stars for being provocative, daring and proof there’s ‘plen’y of hope’ for breathing fresh life into Golden Age musicals.”

The Arts Desk: ***** “Rodgers and Hammerstein revival goes to the dark heart of the story.”

(c)Marc Brenner

WhatsOnStage: ***** “The production is full of audacious touches – a pugnacious dream ballet, full of ache and passion, choreographed by John Heginbotham and beautifully performed by Marie-Astrid Mence in a top that reads “Dream Baby, Dream”; the scene in the smokehouse where Curly suggests Jud hangs himself, acted in darkness, with closeups of the men’s faces beamed in huge video black and white on the wall. Scott Zielinski’s lighting and Drew Levy’s sound design both keep springing changes of mood”

All That Dazzles: **** “The best way to describe this production of Oklahoma! is bold. It would be very easy to rehash the tried and tested measures this show has been performed over the last 80 years so to make it so radically different is a very brave move. It may prove divisive especially to musical theatre purists, but theatre is art and it is fair to call this production a work of art.”

Musical Theatre Review: **** “But the fact that this is a Marmite kind of production adds to its allure and emphasises what a wonderful art-form musical theatre is. Just as new perspectives can enliven a great play, so the same can be said of a vintage musical. An audience can appreciate both the traditional and the revolutionary.”

London ***** “It seems like a cliché to say that this show couldn’t be more timely, but unfortunately, its relevance just keeps getting, well, more relevant. As a story about a divided territory with classes at odds, struggling to find common ground to become a unified state, the parallels with our divided world are painfully clear.”

(c)Marc Brenner

Evening Standard: **** “The score is rigorously interrogated by orchestrator Daniel Kluger and sounds utterly fresh: some songs are begun or fully sung unaccompanied, and there’s slide guitar and banjo alongside plangent strings. John Heginbotham’s choreography has a savage, stamping, heedless edge, particularly in his reworking of Laurey’s dream sequence for a lone, barefoot dancer, Marie-Astrid Mence, wearing a shimmery t-shirt. Some scenes are filmed, extreme close-ups of faces projected live over the simplistic painting of a prairie homestead on the back wall.”

The Independent: *** “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 romance comedy gets a dark reimagining.”

British Theatre Guide: “This is an Oklahoma! that gets top rank performances, with a measure of laughter to lighten its darkness. It may not send you home in high spirits, but that isn’t its intention. It isn’t perfect, but still very good theatre, its bright lights the glare of reality, not of romance.”

West End Best Friend: **** “While there are moments of comedy, directors Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein have created a sense of tension that never really leaves the space. Actors balance on an incredibly fine line as they navigate this difficult story. The pace is slow and allows for audiences to truly scrutinise this work and make judgements upon it based on how we live today – do we think we are better than this? Or is it an echo of how we live now?”

The Times: **** “As the football pundits would say, it’s a musical of two halves. Listen with your eyes closed and you’ll have no grounds for complaint. Using Daniel Kluger’s rootsy arrangements for a club-sized band, this production — a runaway hit on the other side of the Pond — transposes Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical to the realm of the Grand Ole Opry.”

Oklahoma! Continues to play at the Young Vic Theatre until the 25th June.

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