Sunday, October 15, 2023


Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Music by Richard Rodgers

Directed and Choreographed by Belinda Hassall & Christina Philipp

A Queanbeyan Players production

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

The principal roles have been very well cast. From the moment he first enters at the start of the show singing ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’’, Nathanael Patterson convinces as a young cowboy of the period and his commanding vocal delivery of the songs is superb. He is matched very well with Demi Smith as Laurey, who not only sings beautifully but plays the darker, emotional scenes convincingly.

Nathanael Patterson (Curly) and Demi Smith (Laurey)

Amongst the rest of the principals there is standout work from Emily Pogson as a delightfully sexy Ado Annie, Ash Syme as Will Parker, a not very bright cowboy with a heart of gold, Paul Sweeney as the dark but strangely sympathetic farmhand, Jud Fry, Andrew Finnegan as the womanising, risk-taking peddler Ali, Britt Lewis as the irritatingly funny Gertie Cummins, Chris Bennie as the seasoned farmer, Andrew Carnes and Emma White as a wise and witty Aunt Eller.

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