Dereham Theatre Company - Oklahoma
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Director - Anna Lawrence
Musical Director - Malcolm Crane
13th to 20th October 2012
at Dereham Memorial Hall
CURLY - Sam Grieg
LAUREY - Brodie Elgood
AUNT ELLER - Pat Tabor
WILL PARKER - Rauiri Blake
ADO ANNIE - Laura Pirret
ALI HAKIM - Nick Bird
JUD FRY - Jon Bennett
ANDREW CARNES - Colin Harris
GERTIE - Sarah Newton
CORD ELAM (Marshall) - Doug Hartley
FRED - Mark Taylor
SLIM - Charlie Collins
JOE - Chris Robinson
IKE SKIDMORE - Mark Wells
VIVIAN - Holly Alton
KATE - Rachael Bird
VIRGINIA - Chloe Bailey
FARMERS'S WIVES / SISTERS / RANCHER'S GIRLS
Caroline Caldecut, Samantha Elmhurst, Lavinia Pirret, Jude Oulare, Helen Bailey, Ruth Hannent, Heather Neave, Emma Hammond, Amy Evans, Bryony Rowe, Millie Evans, Lizzie Crane
Dave Filer, Nick King, Doug Bailey
SPECIAL DANCERS IN THE DREAM BALLET
Rachael Bird, Holly Alton, Bryony Rowe, Sarah Newton, Millie Evans, Lizzie Crande, Emma Hammond, Amy Evans
Review by Ian Clarke, Dereham Times
Sunday, October 14, 2012
"A few months after Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical Oklahoma! arrived in the West End in 1947, a new operatic society was launched in Dereham. Six and a half decades on, the popularity of the classic production which helped launched the golden era of Broadway musicals shows no signs of ending.
On the evidence of an outstanding opening night on Saturday, the newly-named Dereham Theatre Company can look forward to the future with great optimism. Every element of the powerful production was impressive and the energetic and talented cast had clearly been inspired by director Anna Lawrence.
Oklahoma! has a mix of humour, darkness, conflict and romance. Each aspect was brought out brilliantly and the dream scene at the end of the first act - which included every actor and actress - was captivating.
The casting was spot on. Brodie Elgood (Laurey) and Sam Greig (Curley) have moved up from the youth section and the quality of their all round performances was superb. Laura Pirret, playing her first principal role for the adult company, was a perfect Ado Annie and the talent of all the younger members of the cast was perfectly complemented by the vastly experienced performers such as Pat Tabor (Aunt Eller), Nick Bird (Ali Hakim) and Colin Harris (Andrew Carnes) who are still flourishing after decades on the stage. Jon Bennett (Jud Fry) has as strong a male voice as I have heard in Dereham for a long time and is a great addition to the company.
Malcolm Crane’s musical direction - combined with the greatly improved sound system at the Memorial Hall - and Jodie Quirke’s choreographic input, ensured the complete production package. The feeling around the hall at the end was that the show would not have looked out of place on a large city stage.
I’ve got a wonderful feeling everything’s going their way......"
Review by Stephen P. E. Hayter (Area Representative N.O.D.A Area 4 North)
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
"Since Mr Rodgers and Mr Hammerstein first unleashed this colossus of musical theatre upon the war ravaged West End in April of 1947, Oklahoma! has become the backbone of the British amateur stage. It appears in most societies back catalogue as often as Cinderella or (a little more recently) Oliver and with good reason. It’s joyous message of young love, cross community rivalry and good triumphing over evil are as relevant today as they were back in post blitz London. The newly named Dereham Theatre Company (formerly Dereham Operatic Society) only have it down twice in their roll of honour : 1967 and 1981 and interestingly enough I hadn’t seen it for a while either.
The Memorial Hall was in fine shape as usual and the set by Scenic Products was everything you would expect. The complementary lighting design from Ashley Cashfield was delivered (along with the sound) by Emotive Sound and Light with little incident, only one radio mic having a diva strop and boycotting the first half. Costumes courtesy of Dereham Theatre Costumes were excellent, with everyone having something that fitted and the hair and wigs accessorised everything perfectly thanks to Yvonne Tribe.
As has been the case with every production of Oklahoma! I have ever seen, the ladies chorus outstripped the male chorus on most levels with Rachael Bird standing out particularly thanks to an energetic and immensely focused performance throughout. Admittedly she was greatly helped by the choreography from Anna Lawrence (with assistance from Jodie Quirke) that was simple enough and engineered, I suspect, around the very limited space.
Amongst the supporting cast there were solid performances from Mark Wells as Ike; Holly Allton as Gerty Cummins and Colin Harris as Andrew Carnes who, on his first entrance appeared to have shot the Duracell Bunny’s entire family! Ruairi Blake worked hard as Will Parker with his inexperience perhaps showing a little on occasions and Pat Tabor provided the shows backbone in the role of domineering matriarch Aunt Ella. I enjoyed enormously Laura Pirret’s characterisation of Ado Annie and she delivered the “I Cain’t Say No” song with great style. My only criticism would be that along with a couple of other cast members her fast delivery and strong accent made it difficult to catch every word.
As the eponymous bad guy and sexually frustrated farm hand Jud Fry, Jon Bennett was excellent and the “Pore Jud is Daid” duet he did with Sam Greig was my take home song of the night with every ounce of comedy extracted. His characterisation was far less sinister than I have seen previously which may not have suited everyone, but his wonderful singing voice sounded like espresso being poured over ice cream.
Romantic lead is always a difficult job to do in Rogers and Hammerstein’s domain, especially for the girls and as one of their stronger heroines, Brodie Elgood was excellent as farm girl Laurey. Her beautiful eyes shone through every song and her superb singing voice was a joy throughout. Her love scenes with Curly were entirely credible and I believed every word they said as they gazed deep into each other’s eyes without flinching.
Whenever a society announces this title as its next musical there is always a scrum amongst men of a certain age for the part of the pedlar, Ali Hakim. It is simply because it’s the comic lead and written in a way that gives the performer plenty to work with including a great comic song. In a virtuoso performance, Nick Bird proved just how good a part it is with some of the most accomplished comedic timing and delivery I have ever seen on the amateur stage. His characterisation and accent never faltered and his every expression received the appropriate audience response.
I have saved the penultimate paragraph for young (under 21 I think) Sam Greig as simple cowboy Curly, a part that is so bland that it is difficult to have an impact, but my word Mr Greig’s delicate performance was delivered in such an understated way, I absolutely believed he was the character and could not take my eyes off of him. He set his stall out very early with a benchmark performance of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”, singing and acting to an exceptionally high standard throughout. His various scenes with Brodie Elgood were consistently mesmerising.
My compliments to Director Anna Lawrence for a first rate piece of work and a production that was without doubt the best Oklahoma! I have seen to date. Criticisms were few, perhaps the lack of dancing… but as already stated there is not much room for big routines on this stage and in fairness the fifteen minute ballet scene that closes act one was excellent, even if I have always thought that it is completely unnecessary in what is an overly long first half. This production contained a few new “Innovations” including the projected captions that I loved and some in- house marketing that I absolutely hated!
Congratulations to all concerned and bring on the Panto!"