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Newbury Operatic Society - Oklahoma!

2nd to 6th April 2002.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

High as an elephant's eye

NEWBURY OPERATIC SOCIETY: 'OKLAHOMA!', at The Corn Exchange from Tuesday, April 2 to Saturday, April 6

I hope champagne was flowing when the cast of 'Oklahoma!', director Jill Morgan and producer Bertha Bates celebrated on Saturday night. They deserved it. This was Newbury Operatic Society at its sparkling, enthusiastic, talented best, heralding what must surely be, with the present company, the start of another golden era.

A line-up of excellent principals old and new, a chorus all raring to go and a skilled orchestra under the crisp direction of Michael Evans made the Rodgers and Hammerstein favourite a recipe for success.

The smiles on the faces of the chorus lit up the stage like sunshine over the 'waving wheat' as with never-failing enthusiasm, each acting their socks off, they backed up the principals. Woven in among them were dancers trained by The Linda Butler School of Dancing and Starmaker Theatre Company, the choreography never keeping them aloof from the chorus, as is so often the case, but making them an integral part The dancers appeared alone, however, for the charming dream sequence ending with a brilliant 'fight' excitingly lit by Richard Elliott. Oh, a special word of praise for that rumbustious 'Gone About As Far As They Can Go' from the nimble footed men's chorus. I loved it!

As Curly the cowhand pursuing Laurey (Juliet Clarice), Russell Barrett had it all - the glorious Howard Keel voice plus the kind of acting ability which makes the character totally believable. The fragile Laurey's softer voice nevertheless made a delight of their duets and was at its best in those solo numbers where less projection was required. Her rejection scene with the surly farmhand Jud Fry (Jeremy Mann), always a superb actor, was a high point of the show with focused, excellent performances from both characters, while Jud's duet with Curly was a showcase for the musical talents of both men.

One after another, the talented principals showed their skills, Anne Bennett as a lawks-a-mussy Aunt Eller, Stephen Taplin as sparky Will Jackson, pursuer of the indecisive Ado Annie (Sarah Scott), lain 'Whittaker as a suitably slippery Ali Hakim. Even those characters who had smaller roles displayed an ability in both music and words which showed they were capable of more in future productions.

The final Oklahoma chorus was - well, I've run out of superlatives - just simply great. As Curly might have said: "Jumpin' toadstools - you're doin' fine Newbury Operatic Society". A wonderful evening.