Oklahoma! ★★★★ Wyndham’s Theatre | Until September 2, 2023

If you've never seen Oklahoma! before, you are in for a very special experience. If you know previous productions, put your preconceptions aside. This is a unique look at Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic that brings out the unexplored depth of the work. Without changing the original script, this Oklahoma! exposes all the complexity and darkness that underlies the two love triangles that form the narrative. The relationship of Curly, Laurey and Jud juxtaposes the convention of flirtation and sexual repression with the terror of sexual obsession, while the relationship of Will, Ado Annie and Ali Hakim comically presents the opposition of sexual promiscuity and the requirement for marriage. In the end, the outsiders, Jud and Ali Hakim, are both punished for their threat to social norms, and the two couples are able to reconcile their individual desires with the demands of society. However, while the cost of that compromise is comic in one case, it is quite horrific in the other. Director, Daniel Fish, has created a challenging and exciting musical for the 21st century and Daniel Kluger's orchestrations are brilliantly inventive. As Curly, Arthur Darvill displays an impressive vocal range, and he does a splendid job interpreting old chestnuts like "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.'" Darvill is well matched by Anoushka Lucas whose a cappella "Out of My Dream" is a definite highlight, while Patrick Vaill is a wonderfully ominous Jud. Georgina Onuorah as Ado Annie and James Patrick Davis as Will show real chemistry and their comic turns are a treat. All the old jokes still draw a laugh. One quibble might be the lighting of the show which sometimes seems rather gimmicky, if not intrusive. Nevertheless, this reimagining of the acknowledged musical masterpiece is intelligent and rewarding theatre. Here's a revival that honours the original and finds fresh meaning in it.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner.

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