19th April 2018
Spennymoor Town Hall
Type of Production
Author: Peter Oliver
Roger and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” plays an important part in the history of musical theatre, the musical was created from an adaptation of Lynn Riggs stage play “Green Green the Lilacs” which was first staged in January 1931 , ten years later in 1941 the struggling Theatre Guild planned a new musical adaptation of the play with script and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and musical score by Richard Rogers, their first collaboration which concluded in the opening of the ground breaking “Oklahoma” on 31 March 1943 at the St James Theatre Broadway. Roger and Hammerstein’s remake changed the nature of the Broadway genre breaking all the rules and invented a new formula, bringing together for the first time music, drama and movement to create what we know today as musical Theatre. Set in the 1900 rural Indian Territory the story focuses around the conflict between ranches and farmers and plays itself out in a romantic triangle comprising of farm girl, Laurey Williams and her courtship with two rival suitors cowboy Curly McClain and the sinister and frightening farmhand Jud Fry. This was an excellent choice for Spennymoor Stage and Song not only did it celebrate the musical’s 75th Anniversary but through their Producer Eric Hickson and Assistant Producer Karen Butler they brought this timeless musical to life with its wonderful songs and dramatic story line. Musical was in the capable hands of Martyn Jones as musical Director and his band comprising of Dave Young, Jackie Adamson, Alan Beaumont and Ray Hill they brought a lively tempo and freshness to this beautiful score. Ann-Marie Clayton did a sterling job as choreographer, supported by Stacey Thompson as dance Captain they created some fine routines throughout and I loved the ballet scene that closed Act 1. The set as always looked like a west End production with backcloths painted by Eric Hickson which gave an illusion of a three D effect and with the help of props and lighting it created that special visual creativeness that Spennymoor Stage and Song are renowned for. Wardrobe had dressed the show well with costumes been colourful and added a richness which is very fitting to this production and finally I must mention the front of house staff especially Dee Hickson for making me and my wife feel extremely welcomed.
The show opened with the classic number “O What a Beautiful Morning” the energy and determination of the cast set the scene for a wonderful performance, Ann-Marie Clayton excelled as Aunt Eller, she was able to put in the right amount of humour, warmth and authority in her acting to make this iconic character her own and she certainly held the audience’s attention each time she appeared on stage. Liam Etherington delivered a strong performance as Curly, from the opening notes of “O What A Beautiful Morning” Liam seemed to have the measure of the character, his confident style won the hearts of the audience, good stage presence and I enjoyed his musical solo “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” there was a good partnership with Laurey played by Claire Warren, who delivered a first class performance, good acting and vocals, I especially enjoyed “ Many a new Day” and the Dream Sequence, sang with the ladies chorus I also enjoyed her duet with Curly “People will Say Were in Love”. Richard Butler delivered a powerful performance as the sinister and unbalanced farm hand Jud Fry this character is one of the most difficult to portray and to capture all of the emotions and turmoil in the characters personality must have taken some directing but Richard certainly nailed this character, I loved the scene in the smoke house and his solo number “Lonely Room” and the duet with Curly “Pore Jud is Dead” which was superbly delivered. George Morgan-Watson played the gullible and innocent Will Parker again good stage presence and characterisation and he played well against the “Girl Who Can’t Say No” Susan Raper as Ado Annie Carnes again good characterisation and stage presence. It was good to see Ian Patterson back treading the boards as Ali Hakim the leeching brash and confident Persian pedlar man, great comedy performance I enjoyed his musical number with the chorus “”It’s a Sandal, It’s an Outrage”. Ali eventually gets his comeuppance at the end of a barrel resulting in his shotgun wedding with the laughing hyena Gertie Cummings played by Bethany Hitchen who delivered a notable performance. Eric Hickson opened the second act with the full ensemble with one of my favourite songs from the show “The Farmer and the Cowman”, beautifully delivered, Eric delivered his character Andrew Carnes the straight talking father of Ado Annie Carnes and the towns judge with remarkable panache. There were also good cameo performances from Dean Ranyard as Cord Elam the ranch owner and Chris Deighton as Ike Skidmore a named cowboy.
Well done to the men and ladies chorus including Christopher Jones, Roger Peebles, Paul Simpson Eve Angstmann, Alex Catterson, Angela Eason, Jayne Etherington, Lucy Greathead, Christine Jones, Susan Marley, Abbie Newman, Rebekah Newman, Jessica Riley, Susan Rogers, Margaret Thompson and Stacey Thompson for supporting the principals and delivering a good solid production. Well done to everyone at Spennymoor Stage and Song this was without any doubt a great performance that Roger and Hammerstein would have been proud to be associated with.