Tintern Grammar’s revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, Oklahoma! Reminded us all the reasons why musical theatre will always find an audience. As far as classic musicals go it doesn’t get any better than Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. Revolutionary when it debuted in the early 40s for its use of dance to move the story forward, the show has lost none of its charm 60 years on. Yes, the songs are cheesy and the storylines are a little ‘old world’ but there is beauty in getting lost in the romanticism of a world where the hero wins, love is requited and there is a song and dance for every occasion.
Oklahoma also features some of the most memorable songs in the musical theatre repertoire, Oklahoma, Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, I Can’t Say No, Out of My Dreams and People Will Say We’re in Love. Tintern’s decision to stage Oklahoma may initially seem to be rather uninspired yet given the integrity and sheer sophistication of delivery, it was in fact quite daring as it burst onto the stage with energy and life. The young cast under the direction of Vince Di Mitrio and musical director Alison Bezaire succeeded brilliantly in bringing the show to life, infusing it with an enthusiasm that is hard not to like. Under the command of Alison Bezaire, the orchestra filled the auditorium with melodic sounds with show goers slapping a thigh and clapping along to the signature song ‘Oklahoma!’ as the curtain fell and the cast took their well-deserved bows.
The 80 strong ensemble was well drilled and the staging ensured that although there appeared a sense of overcrowding – the community on stage was as vigorous as the vibrant audience community that dutifully and loyally gave such vibrant and enthusiastic applause night after night with sheer abandon. Oklahoma! was dominated by two impressive female leads, Cassie Jones (Laurey) and Rebecca Fitton (Ado Annie). Golden boy Ryan Tierney headed up the cast as the handsome and likeable Curly, determined to win the heart of sassy and stubborn Laurey, played perfectly by Cassie Jones. Both appear so at home in this role and the transparent rapport between the two leads have us believing they are truly in love. Their euphonious vocals are faultless and add to the joy of watching them. Ado Annie, (the gal who can’t say ‘No’), played by Rebecca Fitton, delivered a standout performance with freshness, naiveté and vigour. Jake Hill’s interpretation of Jud Fry was with a darkening menace. His control and timing of this complex character was edged in pathos, while Joshua Coulson freshness and verve (Will) and Michael D’Addazio’s superb comic antics (Ali) provided excellent support.
Tintern’s Oklahoma! was awash with lace and denim and a hurricane flow of hay bales to set the scene. The staging and the set converted an old farmhouse into a smokehouse complete with windmill and fences. Complemented by evocative lighting and a discerning colour palate this understated backdrop showcased how modern set design can be reinvented for an old fashioned script. The enormous set suggested enough hint of its location without any overuse of props allowing the cast to bring it to life as well as disguising the 26 stage-hands (backstage crew).
Oklahoma! among many other musicals of its era would not translate without the mid-western accents adopted by the cast. It does take a while to get used to the very strong drawl but overall, the cast sustained it’s outdoor mood, hilarity and smooth transitional scenes.
The camaraderie of the entire ensemble radiates from the stage welcoming the audience to come along for an escapist journey in another land.
Tintern Grammar has excelled itself once again.
by Patrizia Jakovljevic, Head of Performing Arts