Music by Rchard Rodgers, lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II, based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
A GSA Conservatoire Graduate Company Production
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Production photo

Watch out world – here they come again! Another batch of the Guildford School of Acting graduates in their final year and with verve, eagerness, ambition and boundless energy, they are about to launch themselves into their chosen career, and will infiltrate every corner of the show business world – as have those who have gone before

The Guildford School of Acting produces some prodigiously talented and well trained performers: there are a multitude of famous names among their former pupils, but they also cover every aspect of the business including stage management, design and production and many of the students were also a large part of last night’s production team.

Oklahoma is a great choice of show, not only for Richard Rodgers’s wonderful music, show tunes which have withstood the test of time, but it is a musical which gives plenty of scope for diverse talents. The story (and, written in 1943, it is probably the first musical to actually have a story) covers innocence, rivalry, ambition envy and murder (or was it self defence?), as well as a love affair and plenty of humour.

The scene is set outside a small farm house where Aunt Eller is steadily and laboriously churning butter as the sky behind her takes on a rosy glow and Glen Joseph strolls into view as innocent young cowboy Curly with the joyous “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” sung beautifully and with a voice mature beyond his years. The farm belongs to his ‘intended’ Laurey, which is just as well as he ends up being penniless in pursuit of his love.

Of course true love never does run smoothly, and the fly in the ointment here is the sinister Jud Fry who is determined to claim Laurey for himself. In David Hydn’s portrayal I almost felt sorry for Jud Fry as he felt himself unloved and rejected, and it was this which incited him to inflict terrible revenge on those who thwarted him. There was vulnerability and a hint of a past life which had turned him into this menacing pervert.

Katy Day as Laurey is sweetly pert and pretty and also has a beautiful singing voice and her alter ego, Dance Captain Maddy Gerosa, performs her ballet sequence superbly before being dragged off by Jud Fry – Laurey’s nightmare!

The dance sequences were terrific – especially “Kansas City” and “The Farmer and the Cowman” expertly directed and choreographed as the ‘friendship’ begins to degenerate into a fight, culminating in the very realistic fight between Curly and Fry – no professional wrestlers could have done better!

They were all so good that it seems unfair to pick out any one but James Rowntree as Will Parker, with his recalcitrant girl friend Ado Annie, is definitely a talent to watch, an all-round performer with superb song, dance and acting ability, and an engaging personality to boot, while Chloe Brooks’ AA was great fun as the “Gal Who Cain’t Say No”

Special mention too for Claire Glazebrook’s youthful Aunt Eller who not only kept up the mid-west accent throughout, but also managed to become a very credible older woman, dispensing sound common sense advice (“Can’t deserve the sweet and tender in life less’n you’re tough”), keeping the peace between warring ‘Territory Folk’ and showing she still has a sense of fun and plenty of vivacity.

Altogether a gloriously uproariously fun-filled action packed show performed with panache and youthful exuberance, and fully deserving the enthusiastic audience response. Well done once again GSA!

Playing until 1st July

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

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