Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Music by Richard
Choreographed by Belinda Hassall & Christina Philipp
A Queanbeyan Players
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan
to 29 October
Reviewed by Len Power
14 October 2023
The impact of the first production of ‘Oklahoma!’ on
Broadway in 1943 is still being felt in the shows being produced today. Before ‘Oklahoma’, with only a few
exceptions, shows relied on personalities, a pretty female chorus and a
throw-away comic story-line to entertain theatre-goers.
So, it was quite a shock for those theatre-goers to see a show with real people and situations in a strong period story which even involved a killing. Forever afterwards, producers scrambled to find stories of depth that could be musicalized, changing Broadway forever.
The fashion, however, these days is to take a show and alter it to suit a director’s interpretation, scaling down the book and cast to a minimum, swapping genders, cutting songs and altering musical arrangements. Even ‘Oklahoma!’ did not escape this treatment in a revival production on Broadway in 2019. The cast recording is almost unrecognizable as the same show.
Happily, the directors, Belinda Hassall and Christina Philipp, have opted to produce a straight-forward production for Queanbeyan Players that even looks similar at times to the original 1943 Broadway show. It’s a refreshing change to see a production as beautifully mounted as this is and to watch a cast who are all believable as the characters they are playing and listen to them sing one memorable song after another.
The 1906 period set design by Jen Hinton and Thompson Quan Wing is substantial, practical and colourful. It’s a triumph of design and construction.
The chorus on Jen Hinton's and Thompson Quan Wing's set Nathanael Patterson (Curly) and Demi Smith (Laurey)
The large chorus perform the songs and dances very well. There is also strong character work amongst them.
Hearing the title song ‘Oklahoma!’ on a recording is always delightful, but to see and hear it sung by a live cast, lifting the roof off the theatre with their enthusiasm in a high quality production such as this, is an experience not to miss.
Photos by Michael Moore
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.