Oklahoma!: Reviews

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Salisbury Journal

Kevin Catchpole

I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going their way

FORTY years ago, Salisbury Operatic Society marked the opening of the new City Hall with a production of Oklahoma! Its spirited revival this week of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration represents a worthy celebration of the building’s valued facilities.
Oklahoma! itself is hardly the revolutionary show it is often claimed to be – but rather a reminder that spin and publicists have been around a long time. Yet, as Tuesday’s first night reminded us, in the hands of a talented company with more than its share of enthusiasm, it is a recipe that cannot fail.
Barry McIlroy’s production possesses a vitality that promised even more for later audiences. Fast moving dialogue, strong principal characters and rousing movement from the whole company. If anything, some of the dance routines appear almost too challenging for singing players. The 50-strong company is hard put to spread itself spectacularly on a stage which is not built to cope with it. The Dream Ballet, however, featured dancers Vince Kemm and Katy Colgrove as Curly and Laurey, is particularly effective, even without the customary smoke.
Costumes and settings, too, are colourful with an especially fine backdrop for act 2, with its exciting hoe-down scenes of The Farmer and the Cowman.
In the leading roles of Curly and Laurey, Alan Spratt and Marie Coles grow in confidence as the performance proceeds. While Marie Coles is singing her second Laurey, her partner was a new chorus member for Orpheus in the Underworld – though there are no doubt other potential leads in the ranks this week. Kevin Murdoch and Claire Sainsbury team well as a gawky Will Parker and effervescent Ado Annie. There are strong performances by Jill Cocovini (Aunt Eller) and Geoff Heard who is always at his most convincing with shotgun in hand. The real depth of the company’s acting resources, however, is revealed by Julian Jeffrey as a roguish Ali Hakim and David Coxon in a compelling performance as the villainous Jud Fry.
John Dempster, for whom Oklahoma! marks 20 years as musical director of Salisbury Operatic Society, secures a splendid pace for this production, which runs until Saturday.

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 Southern Daily Echo

Barbara Godwin

The surrey with the Fringe on Top is back on stage to celebrate City Hall’s 40th Birthday – where the show was performed by SAOS in 1963. The colourful production displays the strong dancing and singing talents of both male and female choruses.
The story concerns the conflicts of cowboys, farmers and their girls at a social evening. Curly, (Alan Spratt) a cowboy, tries to invite Laurey (Marie Coles) but she goes with Jud, (David Coxon) a hard-working but ominous cowhand on Laurey’s farm. Laurey recognises Jud’s true colours and sacks him, but he returns to fight Curly. These three principals interact superbly and the audience enjoyed some delightful solos. Kevin Murdoch (Will), Claire Sainsbury, (Ado) and Jill Cocovini (Aunt Eller) were outstanding.
The show is professionally produced and choreographed by Barry McIlroy. Music, as always, is excellently directed by John Dempster. Runs until Saturday.

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