22nd March 2014
Hessle Theatre Company
Hull New Theatre
Type of Production
Author: Tony Harris
My first thought after seeing Hessle’s wonderful production of Oklahoma! was that it probably doesn’t get much better than this. The use of superlatives can often be overdone but any of the common words, as may be seen later, would suit it. OK, we can all find fault with even the finest shows but here it is difficult.
The staging of the show was first rate with a full stage being used most of the time meaning that the cast of around 60 did not overcrowd it. The large, professional, set was superb and the costumes and props were also just right.
Then we get to the cast. The society attracts a lot of talented people because of it’s reputation and this time was no different. The two leads, Curly (James Robinson) and Laurey (Rachel Barnes) were outstanding. James has a wonderful voice and a good presence and he was well matched by Rachel’s excellence. Although I’ve seen Richard Skelton on many occasions the role of Jud was the first of it’s type I had witnessed from him and I thought he was tremendous, almost feeling sorry for him by the end of the show. The “Pore Jud is Daid” duet with Curly was very good. I enjoyed Richard Foot’s lively portrayal of Will Parker opposite a hyper Ado Annie, played by Emily Hardy, and I felt that Neal Edlin’s enjoyable characterisation of Ali Hakim could have been a bit bigger. There were also some strong back up performances of characters including Aunt Eller (Katherine Fitzgerald).
Martin Beaumont’s direction and choreography were excellent and such was his attention to detail that there were sound effects of dogs barking after some gunshots. I’m not a big fan of ballet sequences, although they were “of the time”, but this production’s Dream Sequence was admirable and different, properly telling the story and building a real tension towards it’s conclusion. Costumes, some hired and some from the society’s wardrobe were, as I expected, just right.
Throughout, the show moved at a great pace helped in no small way by good orchestra under MD Chris Maynard.
I’ve had to remember whilst writing this that few societies have the privilege of working at large, professional venues and, indeed, many societies could only dream about the costs involved. Hessle members are therefore very, very lucky that the society invests so much in them. The society, however, was well rewarded by the quality of this production. Magnificent.