One cannot help being in a joyous, somewhat uplifted state after seeing St. Mel’s Musical Society’s recent production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Oklahoma! directed by Leonard Anderson.
With their usual panache, the company have managed to deliver a superbly well-rounded show that was guaranteed to have you on your feet and singing along.
With a cast and chorus fit for a king (or cowboy, as the case was), the show managed to raise the roof, and rightly so, in this critic’s opinion.
The story itself is based in Oklahoma in the early 1900s and follows the rivalry between Cowboy Curly McLain (played by the excellent Sean Rooney) and Farm hand Jud Fry (played powerfully by Damien Bennett) and their mutual love for Laurey Williams (played well by a really super singer in Kate Larkin.)
We are also introduced to the love story between Ado Annie (played by the excellent Eimear Reynolds) and Will Parker (played suitably by Jimmy Stenson) and the problems encountered when trickster Ali Hakim (played to perfection by the superb Doug Fox Roberts) becomes part of the equation.
Muscial Society veteran John Kelly has appeared in every St. Mel’s show since 1978 and it must be said that he is a fine actor and his impeccable timing in delivering the dialogue is always a joy to watch, as was the case in his strong performance as Andrew Carnes in this year’s production of Oklahoma! Michelle Kelly Conlon played the comic role of Gertie Cummings to fine effect while Justin Forde produced a fine performance in the part of Ike Skidmore.
The entire cast played their roles with conviction and energy with the wonderful Aideen Mulligan displaying great stage presence in really standing out in the role of Aunt Eller while there was a strong, bold chorus in this year’s show.
Singing was particularly strong throughout on everyone’s part. Musical numbers such as “All Er Nuthin,’ “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”, “Kansas City” and “Oklahoma!” itself stand out as showstoppers in particular.
Leonard Anderson’s choreography (with significant assistance from the Dance Captain Sylvia Johnston) was wickedly effective throughout; in particular the chorus dance numbers which were extremely well-executed by the ensemble and injected plenty of energy to the general run of the show.
For me, the show’s pace was a very important factor. Especially with musicals, sometimes the overall pace tends to drag at some points, but thankfully, proceedings throughout Oklahoma! were notably up-tempo and lively.
The technical side of the production was impressive.
The stage was adorned with what seemed like minimalistic terracotta and orange-coloured backdrops, but these later served as a platform to which very clever touches were added, most notably Jud Fry’s Smoke House.
As with any musical, the Orchestra is a vital ingredient and without fail revitalised a timeless musical score under the Direction of the tour de force that is M.D. Fintan Farrelly.
The costumes and props used in the show were again, very top-notch this year, sporting a very authentic and visually sharp array of items.
Lighting and sound design were very powerful especially during high-drama scenes throughout.
No doubt, St. Mel’s Musical Society’s version of Oklahoma! ticked all the right boxes and delivered a spectacular musical performance.
But most importantly, we must remember the community-based spirit evident within the show.
Each year, everyone involved in the show invests a tremendous amount of time, energy and commitment in bringing such an impressive production to the fore. And that, for me, is a most important factor and indeed with any piece of theatre.
Similar to when a flowering plant is derived from a few mere seed, one must always acknowledge where something has come from and the circumstances it has gone through to get to where it is.
An outstanding show, in every respect, and well done to all involved in Oklahoma!
A.I.M.S. Awards Nominations announced on Sunday next
The nominations for the various Association of Irish Musical Societies (A.I.M.S) Awards for 2013, sponsored by HB Ice Cream, will be announced in New Ross, Co Wexford from 1pm on Sunday next.