Theatre Review: Oklahoma! – The Lowry, Salford


This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma! may be 67 years old but it’s still as refreshing and thrilling as the day it was written. The award-winning musical has been revived in a brand new touring production directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Oklahoma! tells the story of two young cowboys Curly McLain (Ashley Day) and Will Parker (James O’Connell) who compete for the hearts of the women they love. The famous Rodgers and Hammerstein score is crammed with the biggest numbers from the Golden Age of Broadway including I Cain’t Say No, The Surrey With the Fringe on Top and People Will Say We’re in Love, as well as plenty of boot-stomping dances that are sure to get your feet tapping.

Colourful, stirring and beautifully staged, Kavanaugh’s revival of Oklahoma! is full of romance and excitement. From the opening strain of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ to the rousing finale of Oklahoma!, this colourful production is so bright, energetic and enthusiastic that you can’t help but get swept along. The timber interlocking set is big and bold, the score is upbeat and rousing, the acting is fresh and fabulous and Drew McOnie’s flamboyant choreography is simply mesmerizing.

Ashley Day is simply superb as Curly McLain, the young cowboy who falls in love with a farm girl. His rugged good-looks, stunning vocals and sure-footed dance moves make him the perfect choice for the role and his chemistry with Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey is natural, realistic and believable. Nic Greenshields chilling take of Jud Fry, the lonely hired hand, is equally superb. The actor does a fantastic job of portraying the tragic desperate loneliness of a man, shunned by the world and his performance of Lonely Room is deep, dark and devious.

Belinda Lang is in fine form as clucking Aunt Eller, as is Gary Wilmot as the unreliable peddlar Ali Hakim. Lucy May Barker is also excellent as the larger than life, fickle and flirtatious Ado Annie. But the star of the show is undoubtedly Charlotte Wakefield as Laurey Williams. Her vocal performance in People Will Say We’re in Love is simply divine, demonstrating her versatility as both a singer and an actress. It comes as no surprise that the actress was nominated for an Olivier nomination two years ago for her role in The Sound of Music.

Big, bold, bright and brilliant, Rachel Kavanaugh’s revival of Oklahoma! is a feel-good musical that is sure to put a smile on your face. Highly recommended!

5 out of 5 stars

Runs until 21 March

Reviewer: Donna Kelly