A classic of the Broadway stage comes to Bury St Edmunds tonight when Irving Stage Company returns to the Theatre Royal to present Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
With its engaging characters, involving story and legendary score, the much-loved show will be performed by the amateur troupe from 21 to 25 March 2017.
Oklahoma! was premiered in New York in 1943, the first collaboration between composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The pair went on to redefine the Broadway musical with shows including The King and I, Carousel and The Sound of Music.
The show is based on Green Grow the Lilacs, a play by Lynn Riggs about hardy folk living in Western Indian Territory in 1906. While the play was not a success, the musical became an immediate smash hit in wartime America, running for an unprecedented number of performances. An Academy Award winning film followed in 1955, starring Gordon Macrae, Shirley Jones and Rod Steiger as the villain of the piece, Jud Fry.
Oklahoma! is the epitome of the musical play, where songs and dances are integrated into a dramatic story, familiar these days but an innovation in the 1940s. Its popularity has endured across the decades and across the world – in 1998 Hugh Jackman and Maureen Lipman starred in Trevor Nunn’s landmark production at the National Theatre.
Songs include Oh! What a Beautiful Morning, Surrey with the Fringe on Top, I Cain’t Say No and People Will Say We’re in Love as well as the rousing title song Oklahoma!
The story follows the rocky road to romance of cowboy Curly Maclain and farmgirl Laurey Williams, set against the friendly rivalry between cowboys and farmers in the frontier America. Farmers are ploughing up the land where cowboys were once free to drive cattle to the west, the railroad has arrived and the modern world is changing the landscape for ever.
The love story of well-meaning Will Parker and wilful Ado Annie; and the threat from Curly’s rival for Laurey, the sinister Jud Fry, are also played out as the story unfolds.
Red Lodge resident Ben Child is Curly, the cowboy pursuing feisty farmer Laurey, played by Tess Smith, who hails from Georgia, USA but now lives in Brandon. Genial cowhand Will Parker is played by magician and actor Ben Young, opposite Emily Smith from Burwell who plays Ado Annie in her first role with Irving. Bury St Edmunds-based Nic Metcalfe is peddler Ali Hakim, and Ampton resident Adam Thurkettle is Jud Fry, also making his Irving debut.
The show is directed by Christian Jenner, collaborating with choreographer Glen Conner and music director Susan Simington, leading a 15-piece live orchestra. Christian said,
“Oklahoma! deserves its status as the show that redefined the Broadway musical. The wonderful score and heartwarming story are such a pleasure to perform, and our talented team so look forward to bringing it to the Theatre Royal stage.”
[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Oklahoma! opens tonight at 7:30pm and runs until Saturday 25th March with a matinée on Saturday afternoon. To book tickets click here.[/box]