Stagecraft: Book: Performance:
A little slice of the American Old West has just giddiyupped into the Brunton Theatre, Muselburgh, this week, & boy what a ride it is! Rogers & Hammerstein’s first collaboration together, OKLAHOMA! is a chirpy family feast full of poppy, melody-fueled numbers; witty chitter-chattering in deep southern drawls; & a lively portrayal of love on the farms. This production is a joint affair, between two East Lothian musical theater groups organised by the very capable team that is Peter & Heather Antonelli. In a recent interview with the Mumble, Heather Antonelli described the familial relationship; ‘Musical Youth and Encore are a big family who support each other. For example, our leading man in “Oklahoma” – Kevin McConnachie – helped in Musical Youth’s recent production of “Footloose” by playing the key role of the Rev Shaw, the minister. In return, Musical Youth are helping out Encore by providing some dancers for “Oklahoma”. Also, our leading lady – Jen Harris – is a former Musical Youth member who has now performed several leading roles with Encore. We have several mums and daughters in Encore as well as husbands and wives and even a gran and grand daughter.’ Jen Harris was an excellent Laurey, as was her leading man Kevin McConnachie, who played his Curly with smooth eptitude. Hazel Gray’s grinning Aunt Eller was absolutely hilarious, as was Robert Simpson’s bimblingly eccentric Persian pedlar, Ali Hakim. His ‘wooing’ of Gillian Hunter’s Ado Annie really was something to behold.
I don’t have enough space to praise everyone here, but it really was a team effort, & a successful one too; the music was great, the costumes, scenery & propwork were authentically atmospheric; & the kids were class! I loved the drummer too, a white-haired gentleman of a certain age who was a highly entertaining watch, perhaps completely oblivious to how cool he looked. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular OKLAHOMA, & there is something about ‘amateur’ musical theater – I say that only in the technical manner, for this production was far from amateurish – that taps into the raison d’etre of the theatrical tradition. Art imitates life, & when real people play characters drawn from real life, the overall effect is, well, incredibly real.
A picture perfect presentation of an increasingly timeless classic, I shall always remember the moment when Oklahoma came to East Lothian. As we left the Brunton, the light lyrics of OKLAHOMA were fluttering like skylarks in the car on the drive home, & one just feels better this morning for our wee trip to the American West.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen