REVIEW Oklahoma!, Wyndham’s Theatre

Daniel Fish’s production breathes new life into the classic Rodger’s and Hammerstein musical.

(c)Marc Brenner

This refreshing, sexy and innovative production of Oklahoma! certainly has plenty to recommend it as it heads into the West End following a successful run at the Young Vic Theatre and on Broadway.

Director Daniel Fish has given it a contemporary vibe, whilst retaining the frontier style through the striking simplicity of Lael Jellinek and Grace Kaubacher’s set design which takes the show back to its roots – focusing on the classic songs and the characters and their relationships. It is such a focused production, that even when taking away the audience’s view (there are two strategically placed blackout moments that enhance the tension beautifully) you can’t help but focus on every word that is being uttered – particularly when Curly goes to visit Judd, which feels like a cat and mouse game.

But this production also provides an opportunity to see the score in a whole new light thanks to the vibrant new orchestrations arrangements by Daniel Kluger, performed with great charm by those in the orchestra pit that again makes you sit up and pay attention. In particular, I loved the beautiful takes on ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ and the gradual build up of ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin” that are performed with great precision and joy by the cast. Elsewhere, Georgina Onuorah as Ado Annie delivers such a delightful rendition of ‘I Cain’t Say No’ that makes it a real highlight of the production.

(c)Marc Brenner

While sometimes it feels as though the show gets slightly carried away with effects and trying to make it standout as much as possible (I wasn’t overly convinced by the use of projections at certain moments in the show for example) and the John Heginbotham’s choreography for the Dream Ballet sequence confused me in what it was trying to achieve. However, for the most part Heginbotham’s choreography is refreshingly sexy and allows the characters to interact with each other in a different way than a more ‘traditional’ production would allow.

Fish’s production has a lovely pace and energy to it that allows the audience to be completely swept into the world in which all of the characters inhabit – but also showcasing just how isolated from everything away from the farmland in which they live, highlighted by the lively dance scene and the events afterwards in the second act. You really get to see how Curly and Laurey’s cat and mouse relationship develops, the increasing darkness of Judd’s character coming more to the forefront and how Ado Annie begins to change her attitude towards relationships.

(c)Marc Brenner

This is a production that boasts of some really stellar performances. Arthur Darvill as Curly and Anoushka Lucas as Laurey have a sizzling chemistry together that really makes the way in which they interact with each other have more bite to it than you would expect. Lucas has really stunning vocals particularly during ‘Many a New Day’ that really captures her character’s inner strength and determination. Throughout, Lucas is a vibrant presence – conveying strength and vulnerability in perfect balance. Darvill as Curly has enough charisma and swagger – but not to the point of being irritating to also give a nicely balanced performance.

But also for me, I loved the chemistry and relationship between Georgina Onuorah’s Ado Annie and James Patrick Davis’s Will Parker – both of whom really provide some delightful moments of comedy particularly late on in the second act. The rendition of ‘All ‘er Nuthin’ is a real treat to listen to and watch being performed. Meanwhile, Liza Sadovy makes for a sharp witted Aunt Eller, consistently making her presence felt, while Patrick Vaill as Jud is a quieter presence but manages to capture the audience’s attention in a subtle way that makes the intensity of the final scene explosive.

Overall, this is a unique and special production of Oklahoma! to watch unfold and thoroughly deserves this West End run, despite occasionally getting a little carried away with itself.

By Emma Clarendon

To book tickets click here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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