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Review: Oklahoma! St George's Guildhall, Lynn




They've got cowboys in at the Guildhall this week ... but don't worry the quality of their work is exemplary as the King's Lynn Players tackle the evergreen Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma!

The cast of Oklahoma! fro the King's Lynn Players (5435082)
The cast of Oklahoma! fro the King's Lynn Players (5435082)

It has been 18 years since the Players last tackled the classic show, which of course features such numbers as Oh What A Beautiful Mornin', I Cain't Say No, People Will Say We're In Love, The Farmer And The Cowman, Oklahoma! and The Surrey With The Fringe On Top.

This production starred Ross Woodhouse as the romantic lead Curly, with Ellie Hiam as his intended, Laurey. Tom Clarke is the intellectually challenged Will Parker determined to bag the free-spirited Ado Annie (Laura Farr).

He faces an unintended rival in the shape of the peddler Ali Hakim, played by Chris Hiam, and it is all overseen by the matriarch of the prairies, Aunt Eller (Jo Sherry). Ian Gooda plays the brooding villain of the piece, Jud Fry, who is determined to have Laurey for himself.

Ross Woodhouse as Curly and Ellie Hiam as Laurey in the King's Lynn's Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435085)
Ross Woodhouse as Curly and Ellie Hiam as Laurey in the King's Lynn's Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435085)

The principals all do a marvellous job of bringing this 1943 classic to life. Highlights for me were Laurey, Curly and Eller singing The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, and Tom Clarke does a great turn with Kansas City. And the title song, Oklahoma! is just an exhilarating burst of American hutzpah.

Chris Hiam brings just the right touch to the comic turn of Ali Hakim, a man who sings It's A Scandal! It's An Outrage! at the prospect of a shotgun wedding. He makes a good foil to Laura Farr as Ado Annie.

But ultimately any production of Oklahoma! depends on the strength of their Curly and Laurey and in Ross Woodhouse and Ellie Hiam, the show is very well served.

Ellie Hiam as Laurey in the King's Lynn's Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435093)
Ellie Hiam as Laurey in the King's Lynn's Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435093)

Ellie Hiam in particular showed off a stunning ability with her vocal range.

Plaudits to once again to the Players' orchestra under the direction of Samantha Ashby, very good indeed.

At getting on for three hours, Oklahoma! isn't the shortest of evenings and the first act in particular has the odd longeur but director Sharon Fox does a good job trying to keep it moving along at a pace.

I hadn't seen Oklahoma! for some time and I'd forgotten that while not as consciously dark as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, which opened two years later, there is plenty of adult content in there. And not all sexual innuendo. The scene where Curly seems to be trying to talk Jud into suicide perhaps makes slightly uncomfortable viewing these days.

But that all adds to the fascination of the evening and with fabulous songs, well delivered and a great cast this is yet again a winner from the fabulous King's Lynn Players.

Oklahoma! continues until Saturday, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30 matinee on Saturday.

Mark Leslie

Ian Gooda as Jud Fry and Ross Woodhouse as Curly in the King's Lynn Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435101)
Ian Gooda as Jud Fry and Ross Woodhouse as Curly in the King's Lynn Players' production of Oklahoma! (5435101)


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