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 Oklahoma! The Porthill Players @ The Rep, Stoke

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Tom
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PostSubject: Oklahoma! The Porthill Players @ The Rep, Stoke   Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:31 am

Taken from The Sentinel 09/04/2008

IF YOU'RE ever asked by a pub quiz machine what 1943 musical begins with no-one on stage, the answer is Oklahoma!

At the time, musicals were meant to begin with a spectacular all-dancing number, not with a bare stage and a man singing Oh What A Beautiful Morning from the wings before wandering on.

This Rodgers and Hammerstein musical was groundbreaking. It changed the genre. Before Oklahoma!, musicals strung unrelated songs together with a flimsy plot. It led the genre from musical comedy to musical theatre, with an actual story and song in service to it, and it included a 15-minute ballet sequence that would induce panic in even the most professional of directors.

It's a big show to live up to, but Porthill Players rose to the occasion magnificently last night.

At heart, this is an old-fashioned romantic comedy about a boy and a girl who are deeply in love but pretend they can't stand each other, like they used to back then. Curly, played by Mark Hilton, is a cowboy and fantasist who doesn't ever seem to be able to get around to asking farm girl Laurey, played by Catherine O'Reilly, out.

To make him jealous she asks her crazy stalker Jud to the box social, something country folk do for entertainment. Curly's bizarre reaction to this is to go see his love rival and tell him how great it would be if he was dead. There's a whole song about it.

The principals play their roles perfectly. Curly is sweet and infuriating, Laurey is too damn independent for her own good, and Jud is at once dangerous and sympathetic. Aunt Eller, the matriarch, was imperious and self-important but not without a sense of fun.

And unusually for an amateur show, even the minor characters were spot-on. The songs were great, the dancing was enthusiastic, and the ballet sequence went without a hitch. It was a joyful, exuberant show, and Porthill's Oklahoma! is well worth the trip.

Oklahoma! is at Stoke Rep until Saturday. Telephone 01782 635500.
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PostSubject: oklahoma   Sun May 18, 2008 10:31 am

Got to agree with you Tom, thought it was an excellent show. I wasn't really bothered about going to see it but I'm glad I did. I thought the casting was very good, with singing and characterisation excellent throughout and there were some lovely touches in the direction. The pace of the show was excellent although I thought some of the dancing could have been cut. Nice to see Porthill back doing shows.
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