REVIEW: Oklahoma! The Swan Theatre, Worcester

It’s back to the old West for Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society with a rousing production of the timeless classic Oklahoma! at the Swan Theatre this week.

The great songs keep rolling along from the moment Aidan Rider strides confidently on for a breezy version of Oh What A Beautiful Morning right through to the eponymous showstopper in the finale.

Written in 1943, it’s an early Rodgers and Hammerstein musical but it has easily stood the test of time.

It’s set in 1906 when the state was about to enter into the union and the changing times brought tension between the settler farmers and the old cowhands.

Charming cowboy Curly is seeking to woo farmgirl Laurey, played by Louisa Ford with just the right blend of winsome and no-nonsense, who lives with town matriarch Aunt Eller, the excellent Wendy Holloway.

But when his offer of a ride in The Surrey With The Fringe On Top turns out to be a fantasy, she plays hard to get and instead agrees to a dangerous dalliance with the brooding and scary lonesome farmhand Jud Fry, a powerful performance from Kit Windows-Yule.

As always with WODS, there’s a strength in depth to the cast. Emily Brooks is hilarious as Ado Annie with her signature piece I Can’t Say No, playing out a shotgun wedding sub-plot with the equally fine Toby Edwards as peddler Ali Hakim, Elliot Kainey as Will Parker and Gary Kimber as Andrew Carnes.

The big colourful chorus dance numbers are expertly choreographed by Rachel Price and there’s a very effective dream ballet sequence as director Chris Holloway explores the light and shade. In the end, though, it’s the bright golden haze that shines through.

The show runs until Saturday (April 13).