REVIEW: Oklahoma at Fakenham Community Centre
- Credit: Roy Ferris
OKLAHOMA, by Fakenham and District Light Operatic Society (Fadlos) at Fakenham Community Centre
I've seen it on Broadway, I've seen it at The National Theatre and I've seen my old colleague Fred Zinneman's 'expensive but rather stolid' film version. Still none came close to the folksy charm of Fadlos' recent production at Fakenham's revamped Community Centre.
By casting a mature Laurey (Maria Cutting) and Curly (Ben Francis), a warmth and humour defined the roles rather than the shrill juvenile banter which we are generally given - and it worked splendidly.
Oklahoma is a long and difficult show whose vocal challenge, ballet sequence, and drawn out ending, are massive challenge to any company.
It could certainly do with trimming too, if the Hammerstein Corporation would ever allow. So it's a brave amateur group that is prepared to embrace its complex demands. Well this week Fadlos did it justice.
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The expert direction, by Jackie Overton, was impressive and revealed both a clear grasp of the shows glittering surface as well as its darker sub-texts.
The supporting parts of Will Parker (Alex Chidichimo), Ado Annie (Hayley Penney) and Ali Hakim (Rob Garrett) – all more traditionally cast than the leads – were also splendidly delivered while special praise should be given to the cameos of Aunt Eller (Lucy Ferris), Gertie Cummings (Becky Jefcoate) and Andrew Carnes (Grant Harrison).
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The difficult role of Jud Fry (Russell Beveridge) was presented with a ferocity and pathos which brought the necessary pain and depth to a part that more often than not fails to be fully explored.
In fact well thought out characterisation and carefully-nuanced performances were the hallmarks of this impressive production and brought a charm and audience engagement that more expensive and spectacularly choreographed versions often lack.
Effectively designed, well played by a talented ensemble and admirably supported by a small but effective band - Fadlos Oklahoma was deservedly cheered by its near capacity audiences.
Review by Wayne Drew (a writer and former producer of Radio 4's arts magazine Kaleidoscope and Theatre Editor for Mixmag music magazine).