Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is the first of many musicals to come from Western Australia’s musical theatre company IAJ International, as part of their inaugural Season of Classical Musicals. It was a rollicking good time of buxom Southern belles and strapping Western lads laughing, fighting, dancing and singing.
Oklahoma! was presented in concert mode, with the orchestra on stage, adding another dimension to the production, and affording a few moments of interaction between the actors and the orchestra, most notably when one of the actors came up to shake the hand of the conductor, Ian Westrip, at the start of the second act. There were plenty of recognisable tunes including Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, I’m Just a Girl Who Cain’t Say No, People Will Say We’re in Love, The Farmer and the Cowman and Oklahoma!
Romance moved quickly in those days – from a woman being disinterested, to engaged, to being married all in the space of a day. Lead actors Meghan O’Shea and Drew Weston were fantastic, particularly Weston, who graduated from WAAPA last year. His strong vocals, dancing chops and comic flair made him a standout performer.
It was great to see plenty of local talent; most of the younger actors were WAAPA graduates. A few of the Southern accents were sketchy and not all the soloists were strong enough to carry their voices above the orchestra but there was plenty of energy and enthusiasm to compensate. TV actor Penny Cook only played a side role but managed to lift the production a level. Ben Hudson as the creepy Jud Fry was convincingly disturbing and Ian Toyne was hilarious as Ali Hakim the Persian peddler.
Carolyn Sinnett, the choreographer, did a fantastic job with the dance scenes, which were highlights of the production, particularly the dance between Laurey Williams (Meghan O’Shea) and Curly Mclain (Drew Weston).
The director, John Senczuk, is doing an admirable job bringing local productions to our stages and it was an enjoyable performance, but I did feel that Oklahoma! lacked some finesse and could have been more imaginatively staged.
IAJ International presents
Rodgers & Hammerstein
Director John Senczuk
Venue: His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
Dates: 17 - 20 March, 2010
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing 9484 1133 | www.bocsticketing.com.au