The Manx Operatic Society had decided to choose the popular and evergreen Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Musical “Oklahoma” as their 76th presentation. This talented company has always entertained their audiences with a wide variety of shows to a very high standard.
“Oklahoma” is based on the 1931 play “ Green Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. The original production opened on Broadway in 1943 to great acclaim and since then audiences have enjoyed this first class musical with it’s well known story line and memorable music. The recent revival at The National Theatre starring Hugh Jackman, brought a fresh approach to present day audiences.
On entering the theatre we were surprised to see an innovative idea, consisting of an open stage, no scenery, minimal lighting and members of the backstage crew making last minute preparations for the show. As the Overture was played the audience were treated to members of the crew setting the first scene, completed just as the Overture ended. Having been involved in all aspects of Theatre I found this fascinating but I believe that some of the audience might prefer the traditional opening.
The backstage crew were, as usual very professional, every scene change executed with speed and precision and Stage Manager, Jonathon Pressley must be very proud of his team. Director and Choreographer, Anthony Williams and assistant Director Sarah Holland have again shown their obvious experience and talent in ensuring the cast gave us a night to remember. Some very accomplished and gifted young dancers have joined the company and the enthusiasm and vivacity in all the ensemble numbers left the audience breathless. “ Out of my Dreams/ Dream Ballet” was a beautiful and emotional experience with Alicia Schofield as young Laurey, Jane Ward as young Ado Annie and Sam Baxter as young Curly giving outstanding performances, well supported by the more mature ensemble. This scene in particular, was beautifully lit and ensured just the correct atmosphere.
There were some strong performances in the principal roles. I was particularly impressed with Lewis Kelly as Will Parker who had fantastic energy and was a very impressive dancer. Nicola Openshaw as Aunt Eller showed all her versatility and experience and commanded the stage at every appearance.
I was intrigued by the original, gripping interpretation of the psychologically scarred Jud Fry by John Snelling. The confrontational scene in the smokehouse, when Jud reveals his inner feelings, was excellent and together with a strong powerful voice he conveyed his emotions in an evocative version of “Lonely Room”. This was another well- lit scene, particularly from below, which helped to create just the right mood. The Orchestra under the baton of Musical Director, Martin Heywood was an excellent foil for those on stage. The balance between cast and musicians was just right. Once again the costume department has ensured all on stage were suitably dressed for the period and helped to make the show the success it certainly deserved.
This very talented society has again produced another memorable evening and I look forward to my next visit to your lovely Island.