London theatre reviews – for students, by students
Presented by MTP.
“You’re Doing Fine, Oklahoma!”
Photo by Kenny Khoo
Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! is a classic hit musical beloved by many. It often provides a memorable night of singing and dancing for those who venture out to see it, and London’s very own Musical Theatre Productions’ version is no exception. MTP’s Oklahoma! marks the beginning of their 25th season, a momentous anniversary, and if this stellar production is any indication of the season to come, then there is certainly much to celebrate!
Oklahoma! is deemed the musical of all musicals- the birth of the Broadway hit- and as such, is not one to be missed. I have had the privilege of seeing Oklahoma! six times and I can safely say that the quality of vocals in MTP’s production rivals any professional production I’ve seen. Joshua Clemenger, playing the handsome cowboy Curly, starts the show with a wonderfully rich belt of “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin” that simply blew me away. Clemenger continued to wow the audience every time he sang a note. Meaghan Sider, playing the sassy southern belle Laurey, matches Clemenger’s extraordinary vocal talent and fills the stage with her vibrant personality. Dale Hirlehey, playing the outcast Jud Fry, brought a tragically sympathetic element to this character; a pleasant surprise as many depictions of Jud are simply brutish and harsh. His low and rich vocals combined with his haunting characterization of Jud made for an unexpected highlight of the performance, particularly the number “Lonely Room”. Hirlehey’s performance portrayed the realities of a man struggling to exist in a world where he doesn’t belong; a tragic and beautiful contrast to the funny and light plotline that otherwise drives the show. Oklahoma! is also well known for its timeless comedic qualities which were expertly portrayed by Joanne Grivich as Aunt Eller, and the comedic love triangle of Ali Hakim, Will Parker, and Ado Annie (played by Greg Mizon, Patrick Bowman, and Lucy Morgan, respectively). These bright characters were cast wonderfully and kept the audience laughing throughout the whole show.
In all the productions of Oklahoma! I have seen, no other community theatre group rivals MTP’s quality. The costumes were fantastically colourful and made the cast look as wonderful as they sounded. The choreography, an extremely important factor in this musical, was fantastic and blew the audience away in every scene. Choreographer and Director Ceris Thomas is to be commended for her extraordinary coordination of such a large group of people. The accumulation of such a large and talented cast was wonderful to see and certainly attests to the talent and passion of those in our community; however, at times I found the sheer number of people on stage to be overwhelming. During the notorious dance scene “The Farmer and the Cowman” it was hard to keep track of the action and know where to look due to the crowded space. As this scene involves many separate fight sequences, it was a miracle the cast avoided and actual accident occurring on the crammed stage! The lighting was yet another indication of the superb caliber of this production. A special mention of lighting designer Mark Mooney is necessary for his beautiful manipulation of light and colour, which added a beautiful spark to the already glowing production.
As is common in musicals from this period, Oklahoma! contains a ballet sequence at the close of Act 1. While the choreography was beautiful and the execution by the performers was stunning, the “Dream Ballet” could use a touch of editing to keep the energy of the show up, while still maintaining the necessary plot advancement and the integrity of the ballet tradition. The “Dream Ballet” was enjoyable to watch, but ran slightly over the average audience member’s capacity for interest in this classical trope.
MTP’s production of Oklahoma! is one of the best I have seen. Whether Oklahoma! is a show you know and love or a musical you have yet to see, you will leave MTP’s production joyfully singing the tunes (literally, the Finale reprise of the title song “Oklahoma!” invites the audience to sing along with the lyrics printed in the program!). I certainly left the theatre humming and reminiscing about the glowing accomplishments of the talent both on and off the stage. The lyrics “You’re Doing Fine, Oklahoma!” have never rung more true than in MTP’s stellar production of this beloved classic.
Oklahoma! is playing November 14th-24th at the Palace Theatre. Call 519-432-1029 or order tickets online at palacetheatre.ca.
I am a fourth year student at Western University finishing my Honours Specialization in English Literature and a Certificate in Theatre Arts. I plan to continue on to complete a Diploma in Arts Management and pursue a career in the industry. An avid theatre-goer and performer since the age of 4, I have had the privilege of seeing countless productions with my passionately artistic (and slightly crazy) family; musicals being my area of particular interest. Dancing and singing since before I can remember, I was raised in a home that emphasized the importance of artistic expression and catered to a passionate love for musical theatre. As a prospective member of the theatre industry, it warms my heart to be able to witness the overwhelming talent that London has to offer.