The show, as indicated by the title, was Oklahoma, not only a show that I enjoy immensely, but also a show that I view differently since watching the film version with Maureen Lipman and Hugh Jackman.
The theatre was the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, a lovely building with excellent facilities and an auditorium with raked seating which offers good views of the stage from all seats - albeit with little arm room.
The society was Shenfield Operatic Society, a society, as mentioned, which I had never watched performances of before, however many of the cast I realised quickly I have seen in previous Brentwood Operatic Society performances.
The stage was set as the outside of Aunt Eller / Laurey's farmhouse prior to the auditorium opening, and was very believable in its presentation - something that continued throughout the whole show. This, along with the excellent costumes, made for a very authentic production overall.
The principle cast were all seasoned performers in various amateur societies and so I expected excellent singing and dramatic performances. Jamie Fudge played the role of Curly and despite him not being the most strapping of cowboys, his performance was powerful, excellently executed and believable. Playing opposite Jamie in the role of Laurey was Liberty Watts. Despite my initial reservations due to her significant height difference to Jamie, this was soon forgotten because of her portrayal of the character. She was not perhaps as feisty as I have seen Laurey played before, but she played the role with such conviction that it really didn't matter. Kerry Cooke played the role of Aunt Eller and reminded me of the Maureen Lipman portrayal. She came across as strong willed, and had excellent comic timing. Jack Lloyd played the role of Will Parker with a degree of simple innocence, which the role needs. Again he was not as strapping as I personally envisage the character, but what he lacked in stature he certainly made up for with singing ability and enthusiasm. Playing opposite Jack was Joanna Hunt as Ado Annie, a role in which she excelled. She was loud, enthusiastic, funny and played the role with great aplomb. The character of Jud Fry was portrayed by Allister Smith who I had last seen in a very different role, the Cowardly Lion in Brentwood's The Wiz. Allister proved again his adaptability as an actor with his snarling, dark portrayal of Jud being excellent. Completing the principle line up was Rick McGeouch as Ali Hakim the peddler. Rick brought comedic relief to every scene he was in. His Persian accent, didn't always sound quite right, but this did not detract from the superb job he did in the role.
Highlights of the principle songs included The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, I Cain't Say No, People Will Say We're in Love, Poor Jud is Dead and All Er Nothing.
The principles were aided in the performance of the show by an excellent supporting cast and ensemble. Highlights of ensemble numbers included The Farmer and the Cowman and the rousing title number, Oklahoma.
Where I was slightly distracted was in the whole cast dance numbers where it was clear that some of the ensemble were better dancers that others and their crisp, precise movements stood out against the other members more laboured moves.
One aspect of Oklahoma which in my experience either makes or breaks a production is the Dream Sequence. This has to be done, in my opinion, with great care. It has to be obvious that it is Laurey's dream, but not be over acted / produced. The Dream Sequence in Shenfield Operatic's production was breath taking. The excellent use of lighting, which changed throughout the scene to introduce new elements, coupled with the costumes in muted colours and the not overly elaborate dance sequences worked so well it left me speechless.
A special mention must go at this point to the Musical Director, Adrian Ure, and orchestra who were impeccable. I also loved the fact that full overture, entr'acte and end music were played.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this performance of Oklahoma and hope to be able to see further SOS productions in the future.
Their next production is Jekyll & Hyde The Musical which will play at The Brentwood Theatre in June.