On the 22nd of August, I travelled to Chichester to view the production of Oklahoma that is currently performing at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Having not have seen or listened to Oklahoma before I had no idea what to expect but I loved it!
Oklahoma mainly follows the story of Curly (Hyoie O’Grady) a cowboy and Laurey (Amara Okereke) a farm owner, both of which have feelings for the other but are sometimes too stubborn to admit it. Curly isn’t the only one who has his eye on Laurey though, there is also Jud (Emmanuel Kojo) the lonely farmhand. As the battle for Laurey’s love heats up who will be the one to win it?
As I said above I had no idea what this musical was going to be about going into it and only knew one song (Cain’t Say No) but I really really enjoyed this musical! The score was great and there were fantastic portions of dancing both of which made it fun to watch
First up we have Hyoie O’Grady who played the main man Curly, from the moment we heard the opening line (Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’) I knew I was gonna enjoy watching Hyoie; his vocals are incredibly smooth and full of personality which I liked. Another vocal moment I liked from Hyoie were The Surrey with the Fringe on Top – one of the songs where Curly was trying to win over Laurey. As I had no knowledge of the musical I don’t have any knowledge of other versions of the characters but I loved the cheeky yet caring personality that he gave Curley.
Hyoie also blended with Amara really well and I liked their scenes together – mainly People Will Say We’re In Love, I thought they had great chemistry which was enjoyable to watch.
Next up we have Amara Okereke who plays Laurey, I was looking forward to seeing Amara again after having seen her play the role of Cosette earlier this year in London’s Les Miserables in the West End. I really liked seeing Amara in a different role – I didn’t know what to expect and could just let her do the storytelling. You can probably tell by now I loved Amara as Laurey; her vocals were gorgeous and angelic, real floaty which was delightful. I loved the feistiness that Laurey had – again don’t know if this is with every Laurey but I really enjoyed it with Amara. One thing that I learnt watching Amara as Laurey was that she is a fantastic dancer! In Les Mis, there is little to no dancing so it wasn’t showcased but in this, there is a whole dance sequence which Amara glides through gloriously, she makes you watch her when she’s dancing and it’s really nice to see.
Next, we have Josie Lawrence who played no-nonsense Aunt Eller whose rough but fair heart has over time made her a leader in the community. I enjoyed the humour and light-heartedness of Aunt Eller. Whilst Josie didn’t get many stand out singing moments she was a fab dancer which was showcased in the song A Cowman and a Farmer Should Be Friends.
Up next we have Emmanuel Kojo who plays Jud (the farmhand who also likes Laurey) who gave another enjoyable performance, his solo song (Lonely Room) was a great song to leave act one on (Dream ballet is all instrumental) as the vocals were really good! I felt sorry for Jud – he didn’t have many friends and he wasn’t Laurey’s top choice but he was still a good guy and deserved a chance to find happiness.
Whilst he was in a love triangle with the main two characters I would have liked to see more from Jud as he seemed like such a complex character that being said; Emmanuel’s scenes with anyone in the second act were so tense…especially in one of the final scenes, I won’t say what happens but watching it I was both glued yet couldn’t watch at the same time…I was stressed people! Especially as my mum was casually like “oh someone dies” during the interval..I’m sorry but what? 😂 So I was on the edge going into the second act but great acting from Emmanuel and Hyoie made it just that little bit tenser!
Next, we have Bronté Barbé and Isaac Gryn who played Ado Annie and Will Parker.
Bronté plays Ado a boy-crazy friend of Laurey who is also in a love triangle herself, she is promised to Will Parker (Issac Gryn) but gets charmed by Ali Hakim (Scott Karim). Her character brings some comic relief to the show- she’s also easy to love. Bronté had glorious vocals which were showcased in her solo I Cain’t Say No.
The person who plays Ado’s lover Will was also another great casting, Isaac shone as the slightly slow but passionate cowboy who like Ado is comic relief in the show. I loved Isaac’s first songs Kansas City which was one of the big ensemble songs and also featured some great dancing! Bronté and Isaac had good chemistry which made their scenes fun to watch!
Last but not least we have Scott Karim who played the other man in Ado’s life – Ali Hakim, a travelling Persian salesman who becomes unwillingly attached to Ado when she becomes fixed on him whilst Will is away. I loved his solo song It’s A Scandal, It’s A Outrage – it made me and a lot of the audience members laugh. I also enjoyed his acting scenes with Bronté and would have loved to have more scenes with both of them!
I loved this musical way more than I thought I was going to! I enjoyed each of the storylines going on and the songs that went with them. Some of my standout moments were the Dream Ballet sequence, I Cain’t Say No, Surrey with the Fringe on Top and Kansas City. There are rumors of a West End transfer for Oklahoma which I hope is true as it’s a great show!
Special shoutout to Hyoie who stopped on his way home to take a photo with me! I sent him a message during the interval wondering if he stage doored after the show; after the show finished I went around and waited for a while before leaving thinking he was staying at the party some of the other cast were having. I began walking back to the B&B I was staying at to then have Hyoie cycle past and stop to ask if I was the girl who sent him the Instagram message, he stopped and we had a nice little chat and a photo! Thanks for this Hyoie!