Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG) starts the new year off with a bang in its most recent performance – a lively adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 classic Broadway hit: Oklahoma!. Taking place in the sizeable Gala Theatre, the musical is polished and professional, with a simple yet effective set design. The plot concerns the interactions between the cowboys and local farmers of a Western territory, following closely the love story of cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey, as well as various other relationships. Running at around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, the show is long in nature, yet the enthusiasm of the cast makes for a fast-paced and enjoyable experience. The delivery of the musical is vivid and engaging, with the set, wardrobe and accents all culminating in an American extravaganza of action.
As expected for an opening night, there were a few technical mishaps with regards to microphones, yet this was a minor issue and the actors dealt with it very well, meaning it did not detract from the overall quality of the play. The music and choreography are both particularly impressive, with the latter ranging from ballet to tap dancing. I am particularly fond of the dream sequence, in which the dialogue is momentarily paused to give way for a visual performance. This scene works well with the music, and the timing and accuracy of this shows that a great deal of practice has gone into the choreography. Situated at the front of the theatre, the band provides a quality performance, ensuring that each musical number is delivered successfully.
Furthermore, the simplistic set makes for a basic but clear backdrop to the action. Props and set changes are cleverly incorporated into the main action, and these serve to distinguish between the different key moments in the play. A scene worth noting is that of the initial interaction between Curly and Jud Fry, played by Mark Woods and Ralph Skan respectively. The duality of a set piece as both a porch and Jud’s hideaway is very effective, and demonstrates how minimalism still allows for a convincing setting. The atmospheric use of lighting and fog contributes to this also, with different colours being used to highlight changes in tone throughout the show.
Moreover, recognition must be given to the vocal talent of the cast, who bring to life the songs of the musical. Elysia Boyle is very strong in her main role as Laurey, and the musical numbers are carried out professionally and effectively. Rose Galbraith is highly entertaining in her role as the playful Ado Annie, working well alongside Kane Taylor’s Will Parker to provide the main comic relief of the show. Interactions between these two characters and Ali Hakim – as played by Tom Cain – are what provoke the most laughter from the audience, with the flirtatious encounters being the most humorous. Such scenes stand as a stark contrast to some of the darker aspects of the show, and the use of music and lighting to convey different moods is very effective.
Overall, Oklahoma! boasts a talented cast and band who deliver an excellent production that is well received by the audience. From the opening ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’’ to the concluding ‘Oklahoma!’, the musical boasts a varied and smooth performance. The acting, dancing and singing cannot be faulted, and I would highly recommend watching this to anyone who gets the chance!
Image: Durham University Light Opera Group