Thursday 2 March 2023

Oklahoma! - Review

Wyndhams Theatre, London


Music by Richard Rodgers
Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs
Directed by Daniel Fish

Patrick Vaill

"You’re doing fine Oklahoma!” goes the title song but truth be told, the transfer across the Thames from the Young Vic to the Wyndhams has not proved an easy passage.

Daniel Fish’s production (originally reviewed to acclaim last year) was a groundbreaking interpretation which when set in the Young Vic’s versatile space, stunned with its bold and innovative take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Moved to the Wyndham’s proscenium confines however and Fish’s wizardry evaporates into mist, much like the billowing cloud of haze that fills the West End auditorium for the Dream Ballet that opens Act Two.

The cast is almost the same troupe as played at The Cut last year. The notable absentee is Marisha Wallace whose Ado Annie was accurately tipped for Olivier recognition - she is missed.

Huw Evans’ band remains magnificent - a nine piece strings, accordion and percussion combo that give the memorable melodies a vigorous interpretation - equally, the singing is perfect across the cast. But it remains Patrick Vaill as the complex loner Jud Fry who steals the show. His Lonely Room is the evening’s vocal highlight and only Vaill truly manages to stamp a distinctive artistic impression on this West End transfer.

The ending of this show is gruesome - with a special effect that worked in Waterloo but is clumsy here. Stage management need to address the hole located centre stage, that’s clearly bloodstained from previous performances and which fires the gore into the cast.

Marie-Astrid Mence energetically dances the Dream Ballet. Again, this was enchanting at the Young Vic but on the Wyndhams’ stage, the cascade of cowboy boots that fall upon her from the rafters seems little more than the work of pretentious cobblers.

Booking until 2nd September
Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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