Oklahoma! at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Belinda Lang plays Aunt Eller in the production of Oklahoma! which comes to the Mayflower Theatre on Tuesday
Belinda Lang plays Aunt Eller in the production of Oklahoma! which comes to the Mayflower Theatre on Tuesday
Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

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On Tuesday, Southampton will feel a bit more wild when Oklahoma! comes to the Mayflower.

The first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma! is set in 1906 in the titular state and tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams, who is caught between the attentions of cowboy Curly McLain and the outsider farmhand Jud Fry.

Belinda Lang leads an ensemble cast as Laurey’s Aunt Eller.

She says: ‘Eller is a tough old bird who is the heart of the rural community.

‘She is a widow who has had to raise her niece Laurey when she lost her parents, and looks after a farm. You wouldn’t want to mess with her.’

Belinda was drawn to the show because of the production team.

She says: ‘I haven’t done a big musical in years. In fact nowadays I prefer directing. But this show has a fantastic director in Rachel Kavanaugh and she approached me about playing the role of Eller.

‘Watching her I have learned alot about how to do a musical well and put it together.

‘This is the kind of storytelling that has to be joined up through the choreography and the set design.

‘The lyrics have to be paid attention to and reflected in the dancing.’

To prepare for the role of the female farmer, Belinda went to the Emerald Isle.

‘I did a lot of reading around the part to see what people’s lives were like during the period,’ she says.

‘I know rural Ireland very well, particularly West Cork, and farmers there have been using the same techniques for years and are quite happy to share their stories.

‘So my interpretation is Oklahoma meets West Cork.’

According to Belinda, the musical does more than it says on the tin.

‘Audiences can expect to be more moved than they would have expected.

‘If you do not know, the musical it isn’t as bright and breezy as the poster would suggest it is – there is a very dark centre to the piece.

‘While it is very heartwarming in its way, the characters are complex.’

As a fan of the 1955 film version, Belinda is still discovering new things in the musical.

‘I listened to the soundtrack album [from the film] obsessively as a child, but there is a song in the show which I don’t remember called Lonely Room.

‘It is sung by the disturbed farmhand Jud Fry and Nic Greenshields, who plays him, has the most wonderful operatic voice.’

The production has many surprising moments, such as a dream scene ballet.

‘I have not been in many shows where you have a big secret up your sleeve.

‘The ballet in the production is 12 minutes long and has some of the best dancing I have seen.’

When asked about the requirements of the role, Belinda says she can keep up with the singers.

‘I wouldn’t be queueing up for the next Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but I can certainly sing in character,’ she jokes.

Oklahoma! is at the Mayflower from Tuesday, May 5 until Saturday, May 9 at 7.30pm, matinees at 2pm on selected days. Visit mayflower.org.uk or call (023) 8071 1811 to book tickets or for more information.