Oklahoma! at Chichester Festival Theatre REVIEW: 'The choreography is where this show shines'

Chichester’s Summer musical is that grandparent of the modern musical – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 10:10 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 4:45 pm
Oklahoma! at the Chichester Festival Theatre, through summer 2019. Picture by Johan Persson

Musically the orchestrations here are wonderful; not as big as the original, but lacking nothing, and the vocal power of the ensemble is beyond doubt.

That said, the press-night performance started badly when the lyrics to Oh, What A Beautiful Morning took a turn up a blind alley and the whole performance seemed blighted by hiccups, in particular a huge pause after the final chord of the title-song where no-one, on stage or off, seemed to know what was happening.

The backbone lies in the supporting cast.

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Scott Karim as Ali Hakim gained a well-deserved exit-round and found depth in a two-dimensional character.

Josie Lawrence’s Aunt Eller is also rich in subtext and Bronté Barbé’s Ado Annie manages to avoid the caricature-trap so many who have played the part fall into.

She is very nicely partnered by Isaac Gryn as Will.

And then there’s Emmanuel Kojo as Jud Fry.

There were some character choices made here that didn’t sit comfortably with me – Jud, a potential rapist, was, at times sympathetic – but that’s subjective.

Objectively this performance knocks spots off other Juds I’ve seen and Kojo’s rendition of Lonely Room is the best, the very best I’ve heard.

Hyoie O’Grady as Curly lacks gravitas, but his voice is very easy on the ear. Amara Okereke’s Laurey is a joy – innocent yet feisty; passionate yet coy.

The choreography, though, is where this show shines and it’s worth your ticket money for the opening number of Act 2 – The Farmer and the Cowman – alone.