New Earswick Musical Society in Oklahoma!
Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York.
York Press Review Friday 11/11/11
IT IS extraordinary that the very start of Richard Rodgers’s long collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein II should have resulted in Oklahoma!, the musical which probably contains more sure-fire hits than any other.
Remarkable, too, is New Earswick Musical Society’s new production by Ann McCreadie, which opened on Wednesday before a full house.
There is quality right through the cast, along with a tangible sense of enjoyment.
Once again, you may think New Earswick a mere suburb, but there is nothing parochial in this show.
For all its wonderful tunes and American pioneer spirit, Oklahoma! is no walkover to stage. Its darker side – the violent rivalry between hero Curly and cowhand Jud – can easily take the edge off the high jinks elsewhere. The smokehouse confrontation between them here makes Jud a less than credible suitor for Laurey. But despite his fierceness, Chris Hagyard’s Jud sings admirably.
His is a near-impossible role.
Otherwise sweetness and light reign. Stephanie Crossley’s proverbial charisma, electric smile and fearless soprano, make her a captivating Laurey, a delightful prospect for any cowboy looking to settle down.
Steve Padfield’s carefree Curly looks as if he will need some taming, his tongue-incheek humour and ready charm equal to Laurey’s contrariness.
He will need to ease up on his forceful baritone if he is not finish the run voiceless.
In the other love-match, Emily Rockliff’s flighty Ado Annie, beautifully rouged and dimpled, is winningly humorous and well partnered by Andy Stone’s happy-go-lucky Will. They make the perfect duo in All ‘Er Nuthin’. Tim Richardson’s Ali Hakim could afford to be even more of a parody of the Persian pedlar. Andrew Clay is firmly funny as Annie’s father, and Jo Pears is fetching as Laurey’s double in the dream sequence. Presiding over them all is Carol Richardson’s engagingly feisty, no-nonsense Aunt Eller.
Don Pears has assembled a ten-piece band that never puts a foot wrong, sustaining a catchy beat and animating the whole show. Ann McCreadie keeps her choreography simple, nowhere better than in the fight-cum-party that makes up The Farmer and The Cowman ensemble, which is impressively disciplined. Robert Readman’s scenery nicely evokes the prairies.
With Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, up-to-date Kansas City, Many A New Day, People Will Say We’re In Love, not forgetting Oklahoma! itself, you “caint say no”. Catch it.