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Oh, what a beautiful evening!

Set in the early 1900’s, it tells the story of a farm girl Laurey Williams and her two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the sinister farmhand, Jud Fry. A second romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious and rather gullible girl friend Ado Annie Carnes. The Leamington and Warwick Musical Society deserve immense credit for this highly enjoyable and professional production which was certainly appreciated by the opening night audience. The quality of the singing of the main characters was superb and they were well supported by the energetic farmers, cowboys and townsfolk as well as Laurey’s talented female friends. The imaginative choreography was of a remarkably high standard, and the orchestra performed faultlessly. The sets were simple but effective and there were some very slick set changes. The dream sequence representing Laurey’s true feelings about the two men was, I felt, particularly enchanting I did, however, have some problems understanding some of the spoken dialogue and am not sure whether this was the result of my ageing ears, sound problems or the southern American accents. The songs from this musical are so memorable and catchy that it is easy to see why its popularity remains undiminished. There must have been tens of thousands of amateur and professional performances of Oklahoma over the past seven decades and LWMS certainly do it justice.

PIc: Will Parker, played by Andrew Thomas, and Ado Annie, played by Erica Webber.

....Yes, siree, it's a winner. Critic Peter McGarry adds his voice to the chorus of approval.

Oklahoma! has not looked so fresh and sparky on stage in a long while. Director Stephen Duckham, delivering the goods for Leamington and Warwick Musical Society, has taken the little brown maverick and turned it into a full-on, romping, stampeding spectacle of a creature. Several hugely positive factors have ensured the success this time round of the golden oldie which has been delighting musical lovers for 75 years. While traditionalists would probably be content to remain in the western wagon wheels rut, Rodgers and Hammerstein would surely have been pleased to see some of the dust shaken off their old war-horse and a fresh vitality injected. Great credit must go to choreographer Hannah Hampson for providing some terrific company dance movement. This also embraces the dream ballet sequence beautifully performed by Charlotte Cochrane, which has been skilfully trimmed and tightened to become a more integral part of the whole instead of the usual overlong interjection. Then there is the rebirth of heroine Laurey as a gutsy, jeans-clad farm girl rather than the chocolate-box sweetie of old. Pint-sized Bex Walton breathes fire and energy into the character, bringing new life to old classics such as People will say we’re in love. The latter is a stand-out duet with Chris Gilbey-Smith whose commanding Curly grows stronger by the minute in terms of both vocal and acting prowess. Together these two achieve a fine chemistry. Equally refreshing is Sally Jolliffe’s Aunt Eller, who provides subtle and well-rounded vitality rather than twangy homespun cliché. Other principals fail to ignite, though Tom Vickery’s Jud Fry would benefit from less accent, more clarity.

Musically, with Matt Flint at the helm, the tunes sound as good as ever. With a partial nod to one of the lyrics, they’re certainly doing fine….Oklahoma, okay!

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