Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Oklahoma! at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 18 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 18 Feb, 2020

By Ferenc Hepp

This year’s graduating musical theatre students from Guildford School of Acting return to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford this week with the first musical from the partnership of Rodgers & Hammerstein – Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! is being performed by students of Guildford School of Acting at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

It was written in 1943, but set in 1906 on a farm outside the town of Claremore telling the story of the love triangle between Laurey from the farm, Curly the Cowboy and farmhand Jud, as well as the romance between the cowboy Will Parker and his fiancée Ado Annie.

The show has enjoyed many revivals over the years and is regularly performed by community groups and schools.

The majority of the numbers will be very familiar to musical theatre fans, and we get a wonderful rendition of Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’ by Alex Conder to open the show who plays the lead role of Curly.

Conder gives us a confident and charismatic performance throughout with a great voice to match.

Phoebe Williams’s impressive operatic soprano vocals brings Laurey to life with true gusto and professionalism which we first hear in The Surrey With The Fringe On Top.

There are many impressive individual performances, which includes Nathan Rigg as Will Parker who is a double threat with a well polished voice as well as some very impressive dance moves as an individual and as part of the group numbers, skilfully choreographed by Joseph Prouse.

Considering the large number of 36 in the cast, the chorus numbers had to be very carefully choreographed and Prouse achieves this along with some precise direction by Julian Woolford.

Will’s cowboys have plenty of energy, although some of the men could do with a little roughing up as the make up looks a little too clean and excessive for cowboys and farmers who spend their time in the country.

Marina Tavolieri gives us a very expressive and well balanced I Can’t Say No as Ado Annie and maintains this character well for the rest of the show.

However, one of the stand-out performances for me has to be Matteo Johnson as Ali Hakim the Persian peddler. The humour, the facial expressions, the cheeky salesman characterisation as well as the voice and movement are consistently brilliant which justifies Johnson’s role as the male dance captain.

Arran Ryder is quite sinister as Jud Fry, although the character needs a bit more emotional variety on different levels.

The accents sound very authentic from the whole company which is thanks to Kevin Michael Cripps and Chris Palmer, although occasionally some of the lines were lost.

The set is simple but it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into making the most of what appears on stage and that is mainly thanks to Roger Ness along with the hard-working stage management and creative team.

David Howe’s lighting complements the scenery with great effect and Brady Mould is in charge of the 10-piece band who provide the perfect accompaniment to the action.

Oklahoma feels quite dated and not often performed professionally, but this company do a great job with the material they have to work with, and our theatre industry is still in very good hands thanks to the world class training that GSA provides.

Oklahoma! runs until Saturday, February 22 and tickets are available via or by calling the box office on 01483 440000.

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Responses to Stage Dragon: Oklahoma! at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    February 19, 2020 at 8:41 am

    This was a fantastic production. Excellent singing, acting, sets, costumes, and the dancing was so crisp and energetic.
    We thought it better than the National Theatre production a short while ago.
    A great evening’s entertainment.

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