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OKLAHOMA! (article first published : 2002-06-21)

Currently running in the Playhouse Drama is Oklahoma presented by the Gauteng-based Northcliff High School, the latest in their series of productions which have visited Durban on an annual basis for the past four years.

It is hard to believe that this heartwarming musical, the first ever collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, burst onto the theatre some nearly 80 years ago. It sounds as fresh and appealing as it did in the 1940’s. In the final analysis, the presentation in the capable hands of the students of Northcliff High School in Johannesburg under director Nick Jordaan, is nothing short of a revelation. The teenage members of this talented cast do more than justice to this evergreen tale about life, love, jealousy and hate on the rolling plains of the Mid-West of North America.

Chris Gouws and Ruth Millson are excellent as the romantic leads Curley and Laurey. Both have resonant singing voices and are natural and totally at ease on the stage. Samantha Cartwright is charming as Annie Carnes, “the girl who can’t say No”. However, it is probably the striking performance of Jonathan Roxmouth as the itinerant Persian trader Ali Hakim which steals the show. This is a classy, closely-observed portrayal of the first rank.

Sets are workmanlike and effective and the whole production flows easily and seemingly flawlessly. Although two and a half-hours long, the musical is always inventive, never boring.

Choreography is of exceptional standard and the musicians under the baton of experienced maestro Kevin Feather contribute their own share of solid professionalism. Lilting melodies from this delightful show are not easily forgotten – hummable tunes such as Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, Kansas City, Many a New Day and People Will Say We’re in Love.

Well done to Northcliff High! After four productions under their belt - Chicago, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Guys and Dolls and now Oklahoma! - the standard gets better and better every year.

Oklahoma! is running in the Playhouse Drama until July 23. There are performances until Saturday at 19h30, with a matinee at 14h30 on July 22 and the final show on July 23 at 15h00. Book at Computicket. – Patrick Leeman




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