On Wednesday 5th August, I went to see the UK touring production of the classic musical Oklahoma. Prior to the show, I had never seen it before but of course was familiar with the music and the basic storyline.
The musical tells the story of Laurey and Curly, two young people who meet and fall in love. True to any romance, classic or modern, there are plenty of obstacles between them and a happy-ever-after.
The role of Laurey was played by the ever-so-lovely Charlotte Wakefield who has had various roles in popular television shows such as Waterloo Road, The Royal and was a semi-regular in Holby City, as Holly Cullen before beginning her musical career (and she’s only twenty four!). I honestly do not know where to begin with her, she was a joy to watch and played the part superbly. She absolutely nailed every aspect of Laurey as a character – her cheeky side, naivety and wit as well as highlighting how she matures and develops considerably during the course of the show. As soon as she walked on stage, she made me and undoubtedly the rest of the audience fall in love with Laurey (and want her as a friend…just me there? Okay then!). There is something very special about the way this young lady creates a chemistry with the other characters. Sometimes – often on television most commonly – you can watch two actors and really struggle to believe the relationship between these characters because the actors are not putting their heart and soul into the performance but Wakefield was faultless, especially in this area of her portrayal of the character – a diamond of an actress who has so much more success to come and hopefully goes further than being nominated for awards!
Ashley Day played the role of Curly and he had the ‘Jack-the-Lad’ character to a T. Day is a fine young actor and brought a certain freshness to Curly’s character. Much like Curly, Day is a real charmer but Curly ultimately is just a young man with a good heart who is deeply in love with Laurey and truly cares about her. His rendition of the classic Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ was certainly one to remember for its originality combined with nostalgia of the original version which we all know so well and was a perfect rendition of the song. Every element of the show was performed with so much enthusiasm and energy from Day that made him a pleasure to watch and a completely wonderful character.
The iconic Gary Wilmot played peddler Ali Hakim, a character who can very well be classed as a loveable rogue. Every part of Ali is false and his dishonesty leads him to being in awkward positions with women and eventually marrying the formidable Gertie Cummings. Wilmot is a theatrical legend and is someone I have been familiar with for a long time, from me first seeing him in the London production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I am 100% certain that he still has several decades of a career still to come and will become one of the greats, if he is not already. His performance as Ali Hakim was nothing short of genius, with his quirky attempts at trying to make his stories believable combined with brilliantly timed comedy.
Belinda Lang played Laurey’s Aunt Eller, an eccentric, elderly woman with no fear and a pretty cynical view of life. I was astounded by the fabulous make-up, as Lang did not look one bit like her usual self but like an old country woman. Lang was hilarious, particularly in the song The Farmer and the Cowman. Known as a comedy actress in the comedy 2Point4 Children, she has still got it and her performance most certainly was a memorable one.
A spectacular performance I personally thought came from Nick Greenshields in the role of Jud Fry, an older man who is in love with Laurey. I cannot make up my mind whether I felt sorry for Jud or whether he was just a nasty person. His innocent love for Laurey quickly escalated into a stalker-ish kind of obsession, as foreseen at the end of act one in the dream ballet. The scene where Jud and Laurey are alone in the second act really leaves you on the edge of your seat as Jud at this point is so unpredictable and at times, it seems that he wants to deliberately hurt Laurey, but at others, he just wants her to love him and this was beautifully played out by both, with a particularly strong performance from Greenshields. Jud did meet a tragic ending, which in several ways was foreshadowed in a number of moments in the show.
Oklahoma is such a great, feel-good musical where every audience member leaves on a high. The cast are absolutely sublime and I could go and write a paragraph about each and every one of them if I had the time. This show has now become my favourite classic musical and is definitely in my top ten all time favourites. I really cannot praise this show, the cast, crew and music enough so all I have to say now is that if this show happens to tour again (which I hope it does!) get down to the theatre and see it. A very special night out for people of all ages.