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Review: Scarborough Musicals in Oklahoma at the YMCA

Scarborough News

Grab your pardners for the best hoedown – Scarborough Musicals’ production of Oklahoma on the stage of the YMCA Theatre. 

The cast stomp, stamp and sing their way through the Rodgers and Hammerstein story of cowboys and farmers in a swirl of gingham, flower-print, denim and stetsons. 

Tune after tune – O What a Beautiful Morning, Surrey with a Fringe on the Top, Kansas City, I Caint Say No, Many A New Day, People Will Say We’re in Love and All Er Nuthin’ – are belted out as Curly romances Laurey into his arms and Will tames the wandering eyes and arms of Ado Annie. 

After last year’s Legally Blonde, the company returns to a more traditional show and its success still lies square-dancingly in the hands of the younger members of the cast. 

There are outstanding performances from Connor Canvess as Curly, Tilly Jackson as Laurey, Georgia Mason as Ado Annie and Nathan Mundey as Will. 

Connor played Emmett in Legally Blonde – and boy has he matured into a confident leading man with a strong voice, charm and strength as an actor. 

Tilly, who played Elle in Legally Blonde, brings a depth and seriousness to her role. 

Georgia is simply divine as flirtatious man-mad Ado Annie – never missing a comic beat or singing a wrong note as she wrung the comedy out of the role. 

Not to be upstaged Nathan Mundey has never been better as the devoted and dim Will. 

Older hand Helen Dent brought verve and stability to the production. 

Dave Blaker – again – shines in a cameo. This time as Jud Fry who represents the darker side of this musical love story. He was menacing and yet vulnerable as the troubled farm hand and his rumbling baritone is put to excellent use in Pore Jud is Daid and Lonely Room.

 Let’s hear it for Bob Holmes as Ado Annie’s father Andrew Cairns. He has seldom missed a show for decades and here gets his moment in the spotlight singing the Farmer and the Cowman – and is priceless. 

Chris Taylor – who helmed Scalby School productions including Miss Saigon – takes up the reins as director and plays peddler Ali Hakim to great comedy effect. 

He keeps the production pacey and allows the darker moments to linger the more for the audience to feel the tension – and relief when the joy once again abounds.

 The ensemble liven up the song and dance numbers, choreographed superbly by Sheryl Buttner, and there is also a lovely cameo from Casey Canvess as Gertie – the girl with the most irritating laugh in the world. 

Musical director Robert Schmuck also does an outstanding job on keyboards. 

Scarborough Musicals’ Oklahoma will go down as one of its most outstanding productions of recent years. It is a traditional musical which Chris and his cast – young and not so young – has given freshness and vibrancy. The closing number Oklahoma was roof-liftingly rousing and left the audience begging for more. 

Cast: Connor Canvess, Tilly Jackson, Helen Dent, Nathan Mundey, Georgia Mason, Dave Blaker, Rebecca Boag, Michelle Rayner, Kirsty Sheader, Mollie McPhearson, Robin Newman, Pauline Newman, Hattie Pridmore, Michelle Blackstone, Elaine Allcroft, Amy Hitchcock, Terry Johnston Chaten, Mike Wademan, Bob Holmes, Kath Mundey, John Hazelwood, Kath Mundey, Casey Canvess, Sheryl Buttner, Chris Taylor, Jo Banken, Maria Bowtell, Natalie Ellis, Elaine Evans, Steve Wity, Bob Gibbon, Linda Green, Anita Hill and Pamela Hill. 

NODA

Author: Tony Harris

What a wonderfully fresh and bright production of an old favourite this was. I was impressed right from the overture with the excellent pace at which the MD took the musical numbers. This in turn led to pacey dialogue in what is, uncut, a fairly long show and the first night audience really enjoyed a super performance from an enthusiastic cast, back stage team and a very good orchestra.

Connor Canvess was extremely likeable as Curly McLain. He has a very relaxed style of singing and, after a nervy opening, really settled in to his role. His affection for Laurey Williams, beautifully performed by Tilly Jackson, was obvious and when they were together they made me very happy as well! The setting of their ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ was super and, as with other songs in the show such as ‘All Er Nuthin’, was given a new lease of life in it’s portrayal. Tilly has a lovely voice and also moves in a very accomplished way, as shown in the ballet. Smashing!

Another couple of fine performances were given by Georgia Mason as a hilarious Ado Annie and Nathan Mundey as Will Parker. Like Connor and Tilly they were the right ages for the parts with modern portrayals were that very enjoyable, all showing the right amount of naivety that youth has.

Dave Blaker gave a big performance as Jud Fry, as always very challenging. His ‘Pore Jud Is Daid’ with Curly was excellent with the confident young buck winding him up well. The society always uses raised areas front stage right and left and here Jud’s cabin was on one of them. This worked well in the duet but I felt it restricted Dave physically when he sang ‘Lonely Room’.

Helen Dent was a powerful Aunt Eller, totally controlling the community, and she showed some nice quieter moments when necessary. Chris Taylor, who also directed the show, was an enjoyable Ali Hakim and well suited to the role and we also had a splendid laugh from Casey Canvess as Gertie Cummings.

All the smaller parts were nicely played and we could hear everything. The singing was excellent and I really enjoyed the choreography. I thought the set was magnificent and well utilised, the costumes were good, the lighting effective and I especially liked the bird song sound effects which added to the Oklahoma sunshine.

Oh, What a Beautiful Evenin’!