On Wednesday 11th October we joined many others of all ages at LIttlehampton’s Windmill Theatre for the opening night of Oklahoma – the latest production by the Littlehampton Players’ Operatic Society (LPOS).
Greeted by ushers dressed in cowboy gear, we joined a packed house to witness the first of many successful collaborations between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein dating from 1943. For LPOS this was not only their first production of Oklahoma! in 61 years’ history but also, it seems, their first venture into works by that celebrated duo whose other hits include Carousel and The Sound of Music.
An authentic American voice warned us all of both the firing of guns during the performance and the consequences of not switching off our phones!
Cowboy Curly McLain, played by Tony Baker*, serenaded the beauty of an Oklahoma morning before inviting farm girl Laurey Williams (Katie Newman*) to join him at the local hop. He had hired a Surrey with the Fringe on Top to take her there but she doubted he could afford that and opted instead to attend with her Aunt Eller’s (Tracey Lynch) lonely farmhand, Jud Fry (Daniel Paine).
We then met spendthrift Will Parker (Phil Wotton*), another cowboy and Ado Annie Carnes (Victoria Unsworth) his intended who, in addition to commanding a $50 dowry, was also involved with a Persian pedlar, Ali Hakim (John Chambers*). Ado’s father Andrew (Jimmy Lynch) was anxious to ensure his (daughter’s?) best interests and, as Ali clearly had the money, used his shotgun as gentle persuasion!
Curly, hearing of Jud’s intentions toward Laurey, visited his rival’s smokehouse abode and tried to get him to take his own life with poignant references, in the duet Poor Jud is Dead, to his funeral. This scene, with a suitably darkened stage, merely strengthened Jud’s resolve for Laurey’s hand.
And so we progressed to the farmers’ social with dancing, an auction of picnic baskets made by the ladies and dodgy dealings by Ali which included the sale to Jud of the Little Wonder, a seemingly innocuous one-eyed telescope which, to our horror, was far from so! Curly sold everything he owned including his horse, gun and saddle in order to secure Laurey’s basket but Jud, the losing bidder, attempted unsuccessfully to kill him – yes, the Little Wonder contained a nasty blade in its eyepiece.
For most the story ended happily but, sadly, not for Jud who, whilst trying to dispense with Curly, fell upon his own knife and died. Poor Jud really was dead and, after a sham trial, Curly and Laurey departed triumphantly for their honeymoon.
Everyone who took part in this show acquitted themselves superbly and we heard magnificent singing and enjoyed super choreography and musical backing throughout. Congratulations to all the debutants (marked with a * above) and while It is unfair to single one person out, I ended up feeling really sorry for Jud and thought that erstwhile Musical Director of the Society, Daniel Paine, played him to perfection.
Very well done LPOS and we eagerly look forward to next April’s production of Guys and Dolls