Thursday, 18 October 2018

The little LOLs on the prairie

FOR a 72-year-old musical, Oklahoma! still has something to make the digitalised young of today LOL.

FOR a 72-year-old musical, Oklahoma! still has something to make the digitalised young of today LOL.

Written at a time when America had come out of extreme austerity and Of Mice and Men had been a bestseller for six years, it is theatre where men are real men and women can be auctioned off according to the contents of the picnic basket they produce.

This was another first for my teenage daughter, who loves more modern musical theatre like Les Misérables, and at first we did feel that we were a little “young” as the audience surrounding us had an average age of 65.

But despite the lack of political correctness and a pretty standard good guy/bad guy plot, the cast brought vitality and energy to a very long production, with just enough cheek to keep the most anti-musical theatregoer involved.

The set was huge, emulating the wide open spaces of the prairie setting, and the orchestra skilful in their interpretation of the well-known songs and timing of sound effects. This was put to particularly good use when guns were fired â?? yes, expect to be made to jump out of your seats at a few points.

Certainly the cowboys had been working on their “guns” as they showed off their dance prowess, using straw bales at one point, and Simon Antony, who played Will Parker, was a brilliant choice for this lumbersexual role, despite being fresh out of theatre school.

The star of the show, however, had to be Nic Greenshields, whose voice is the sort of disturbing baritone that creeps into your soul.

It wasn’t surprising, therefore, to find that he has worked on the motion picture soundtrack for Les Misérables and has previously played Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.

Of substantial build â?? he is 6ft 6in â?? he towered over the rest of the cast and brought a film star aura to the production, making the audience love, pity, be scared of and hate his character in equal measure.

Other, more well known faces weren’t quite as expected, and though professional in his delivery and timing, Gary Wilmot’s accent for Ali Hakim was a little off-putting.

But don’t be put off by this slight anomaly â?? Belinda Lang played the gawky and wise Aunt Eller convincingly and kept the momentum going even when there was a slight mishap with a line.

The older generation that surrounded us loved this production, with just enough swagger and pouting to keep a sense of the era, coupled with a more modern choreography than the film version.

The play aspect of the storyline proved able to stand the test of time, giving the younger generation an entertaining and thought-provoking evening. Definitely one to go and see if you can.

Oklahoma! is at the Wycombe Swan until Saturday (August 8).

Review: Anna Van Leemputten

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