Even if you’ve never seen the show before, Oklahoma! feels like a bracingly fresh production of a classic musical at the Young Vic
“Brand new state, gonna treat you great”
For a classic musical, and me being a lover thereof, Oklahoma! is a real blind spot for me. Revivals have been hard to come by in recent years, particularly in the decade plus I’ve been blogging, but it is also not a show that was part of our family lexicon growing up, I don’t recall ever watching the film as kids. So something of the notion of an remagining of the show is lost on me, as I’ve nothing to really compare it to, save distant memories of a watch of the DVD of the Hugh Jackson/Josefina Gabrielle/Trevor Nunn production some 11 years ago.
Daniel Fish’s reinterpretation of the show arrives at the Young Vic with a considerable amount of prestige. His St. Ann’s Warehouse production transferred into Broadway and picked up the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival as it really does reconceive a way to do a Golden Age musical in a manner which is throughly refreshing and reinvigorating, startling even, as it wrestles thoughtfully with some of the dicier areas in which it decides to tread, and reshaping its musical imprint which is bracingly contemporary.
Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein’s direction keeps the lights bright and the proximity near (if the show does transfer into the West End, that’s something that will be lost, so make all effort to get a ticket here if you can), shifting our relationship to the performance as it connects us in – dare I use the word… – an immersive manner that is all too rare in a musical of this stature. My lack of previous with the show means I don’t know any different in terms of the characters but the naturalism of the company is unmistakeably striking.
Arthur Darvill and Anoushka Lucas lead with emotive musicality as Laurey and Curly, and Marisha Wallace and Patrick Vaill elevate their supporting performances to standout level as Ado Annie and Jud Fry respectively, playing all the light and shade of love and life and golden meadows. Tom Brady’s musical direction perfectly reshapes the score for the intimacy here, similar care and attention from co-set designers Laura Jellinek and Grace Laubacher making this a truly unique musical theatre experience, even if you haven’t seen the show before.