Oklahoma! – June 2009

5/10

By Rodgers and Hammerstein

Directed by John Doyle

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Monday 22nd June 2009

Musicals aren’t Steve’s and my favourite type of entertainment, and while this performance was enjoyable it didn’t change our minds on the genre as a whole, although we would be happy to see another production of Oklahoma! in the future. The set was as minimalist as one could possibly get; just two grimy sheets slung across the stage at angles to suggest a wide open sky and a floorboard mound to suggest a field of wheat and the like. The director is well known for his economic use of resources in the Watermill Theatre (we hope to attend that one soon) and old habits evidently die hard.

The staging was similarly pretty sparse, and from reviews I’ve read the costumes were positively niggardly, with only one outfit per cast member (Ado Annie excepted, if I remember right). I thought the singing was great, and I especially loved Ado Annie (Natalie Cassidy) and her various partners in dialogue or song. Natalie Cassidy has such an expressive face, and she brought out the character and the humour really well.

From the post-show discussion, it was clear that the director had decided to bring out the darker side of this piece, and while that can make for an interesting evening it isn’t always appropriate. With this musical, I think the darker side is so under-written that it seems silly to emphasise it so much instead of giving the punters a rollicking good evening’s entertainment, but that’s just me. At least Steve and I had nothing to compare the production with, unlike many in the audience who could remember the original West End production, never mind the one at the National several years ago. Generally speaking, those who’d seen a more upbeat, lavish production found this one dismal and disappointing, while those of us who came to it relatively fresh (we had at least seen bits of the movie) found it more enjoyable.

On the whole, I felt the characters were pretty uninteresting, apart from Ado Annie and Ali Hakim (Michael Matus) the Persian pedlar who occasionally took off his makeup and spoke in a regular American accent. I felt he was worth more attention, compared to the bog standard Oklahomans. Aunt Eller in particular seemed to be on stage a lot but spoke and did very little, despite being a main character apparently. Ah well, better luck next year.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Carousel – August 2006

Experience: 2/10

By Rodgers and Hammerstein

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Monday 7th August 2006

I’m not a great one for musicals, and this wasn’t going to change my mind. Some of the songs were good, but it seemed desperately underwritten, especially at the end, where the story just seemed to peter out. Not having seen it before, I don’t know how much this was down to the production, and how much to the piece itself, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s just dated badly.

The cast seemed fine, especially the heroine’s sidekick, and I liked the scenery and costumes. The best scene was the song ‘My Boy Bill’, where we actually get to see a character develop and grow. If the rest of it had been up to that standard I would have been well happy. Despite my interest in all things spiritual, I found the heaven-based scenes artificial and out of synch with the rest of the piece. Roy Dotrice was enjoyable, though.

All in all, I’m glad I’ve seen it, but I would need some real incentive to go again.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me