REVIEW: OKLAHOMA! @ THE YOUNG VIC
📍 Young Vic, 66 The Cut, London, SE1 8LZ
🗓 Saturday 4th June 2022
OH, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SHOW!
Being someone who is a fan of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, I was excited to see this revival which promised to be Oklahoma! - but not as you know it!
This production did not disappoint and pushed the storyline and characters just about as far as possible.
Anoushka Lucas brought a real humility to the character of Laurey and wasn't as prim and proper as expected. Lisa Sadovy's Aunt Eller was less of a matriarchal force than seen in previous productions. Although you still knew she was in charge, she was perhaps more likeable than previous incarnations. On the flip side, I found Arthur Darvill's Curly to be less likeable!
It's interesting to see different takes on these iconic characters and I especially enjoyed Patrick Vaill as Jud Fry. Instead of coming across as creepy as you'd expect, it was like you could see into his soul and really see his damage. Some of his scenes were performed in total darkness and at other times you saw his face projected onto the back of the performance area which helped to give a unique look into the workings of this character. After portraying this role in the Tony Award winning Broadway revival, London is privileged to have Vaill here to share his talent.
The standout performance for me was by the incomparable Marisha Wallace as Ado Annie. Always a favourite character, Wallace really rounds her off and gives her a more domineering presence than usual. You don't feel the character is there just for comic relief but has a purpose and you fall in love with her for different reasons than previously. Wallace's version of I Cain't Say No is performed with powerful effortless ease and has the entire audience ready for a hoedown! It truly is a show stopping performance and having seen Wallace in other productions I was not disappointed by her performance here. As soon as she starts to sing, you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand on end.
The parts of her two love interests are portrayed by Stavros Demetraki as Ali Hakim and James Davis as Will Parker. Demetraki's comic timing was spot on and Davis was emotional and hilarious in equal measures. You really felt that Will loved Ado Annie more than anything in the world.
The supporting cast of Rebekah Hinds, Greg Hicks, Ashley Samuels and Raphael Bushay round off the cast wonderfully.
Although this production doesn't feel as 'Southern' and gun-toting as others, you still do get the impression that if the characters lived in the modern world, they'd be Trump supporters!
The production itself is semi-immersive and allows you to get up close and personal with the characters. There are some hilarious interactions between the characters and audience members which help to lift this production to a whole new level.
The lack of huge sets and the simplistic lighting design actually made you feel more a part of the action. Being able to establish eye contact with the actors, which they acknowledge, allows you access into their emotions and thoughts which makes you more engaged with and emotionally invested in the characters.
One negative for me is that at times it was difficult to hear the characters when speaking or singing. They were however experiencing technical difficulties which delayed the start of Act 2 so maybe that was a contributing factor. I also found it hard to connect with the character of Curly in this production. Not that Darvill wasn't great in the role, but there was just something that made me dislike the character slightly which was unexpected and hard to explain.
No review of this production would be complete without mentioning the stunning performance of Marie-Astrid Mence who danced the dream sequence with sublime elegance, or the musicians lead by Musical Director Tom Brady who are on the stage and are 100% part of the production.
Overall, a very enjoyable production that deserves a huge wave of Olivier Award nominations.
The show runs at the Young Vic until 25th June and there are a few seats remaining for the evening performance on 08/06/22 but the rest of the run is now sold out. Check out the website youngvic.org for purchasing options.
Please be aware that this production contains haze, smoke, loud gunshots, mild violence, references to suicide and blood splatter which means the recommended age for this production is 12+.
Please note: all views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.