Dalriada School’s production of the popular musical ‘Oklahoma!’ (3- 5 December) was high-quality, energetic, skilful and filled with top-level production values to rival any professional company.
It was a treat. The large cast and chorus and Dalriada’s very own live orchestra ensured a fresh, lively, thrilling production while maintaining the vigour of the original score and script.
The acting and singing in this colourful production were excellently executed by all. Speech and song merged effortlessly one into the other in this fine integrated performance. From the moment the lights went up on Aunt Eller (Anna Nicholl) who engaged the audience the minute we saw her, we knew we were in for a great show. Before she even said a word she set the scene through gesture and vivid facial expression. With her excellent acting and fine singing voice she held the audience every step of the way throughout the show. She portrayed the character with a poise and confidence equal to that of a fully trained and experienced actor. This is especially impressive in a young actor playing a character older than herself.
The lead characters: Curly (Peter Easton ) and Laurey (Caitlin Farrell) were both confident, assured and appealing. Curley first entered (via the audience) singing “Oh what a Beautiful Morning” in a tremendous voice which made the person seated beside me audibly gasp at its power. It was a terrific opening to his role and he received an immediate ovation. He played the character in a very appealing manner and gave a strong, engaging and confident performance in both singing and acting. Laurey was a wonderful actor and singer. Her strong range of performance skills conveyed her role as a modern girl, showing independence and vulnerability in equal measure. Her solos were faultless. Her duets and reprise with Curly were full of just the right level of note-perfect passion from both actors.
Ado Annie (Katie Marshall) was a delight and played the character in a strong way for the modern age. She was another gem. With her wonderful voice and excellent acting she performed with charm and vivacity. Will Parker (David Loughridge) brought great brio to his part and changed the dynamic on his first entrance. He portrayed an accessible and winsome character with grace and charm.
Ali Hakim was a more difficult part to play. Jonathan Witherow did so with terrific skill and aplomb. He gave just the right amount of smooth, misplaced smarminess without being a stereotype. His fine comic timing ensured plenty of laughs. He played his part with great energy which earned him huge warmth from the audience, sleaze notwithstanding.
It is imperative, in the modern age, to portray the stock ‘outsider’ character of Jud without recourse to stereotype. Jud is a challenging part for a school student and Aaron Christie played him convincingly with just the right amount of gruffness and simmering frustration throughout. As well as revulsion towards Jud’s attitudes, he also elicited a degree of sympathy. The audience could see him as a victim of the wider societal forces that shaped him. This was a huge feat, to be applauded and was made possible by sensitive direction and acting.
It is important to pay tribute to those behind the scenes who make a production possible. First of all, high praise is due to Cheryl Brown for her outstanding direction of this vintage piece.
The casting, staging, choreography, acting, singing and the accents were all excellent. It is sometimes tricky to present a piece which includes some dated attitudes and language. However under Cheryl Brown’s capable hands these were presented with great sensitivity.
Special mention must be made of the orchestra led by Musical Director Heather Montgomery who conducted, as well as playing the piano. The orchestra were integral to the success of this production. They played solidly for almost the entire performance. A fabulous accomplishment. A wonderful accompaniment to those on stage.
Dalriada has set its own bar very high with its long and distinguished track record of annual productions. It is clearly a school which values the arts as part of a Wrounded education for all pupils. The pupils at Dalriada are so lucky to have this kind of opportunity to expand their experiences. . Above all they all looked as if they were enjoying themselves immensely. The audience, swept along by the sheer exuberance of this fine cast and crew, gave a standing ovation during the finale. A triumph.