Saturday, 28 September 2019

REVIEW: Oklahoma! – 2019 Broadway Cast Recording

For those of us not lucky enough to make it over to Broadway, our best insight into the delights on stage across the pond are the cast recordings released. This year, the hottest show in town happens to be a show written in 1943 and reborn in 2019, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!which has been entirely reimagined to great acclaim. Let’s not forget that in its day, the show’s original production was considered groundbreaking, so it seems fitting that some 76 or so years later, Daniel Fish’s revival is being seen so as well. With the whole show re orchestrated to exploit the country and western root of the plot, it brings a refreshing new atmosphere to the show - and just you wait for the Dream Ballet!

So we sat down and listened to the cast album, imagining ourselves in the Circle in the Square Theater, NYC. 

Almost everyone is familiar with the opening of Oklahoma!, whether by choice or not, we all know Curly’s famous first words of “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and we have come to expect them accompanied by lush traditional orchestration but Daniel Fish’s production eschews tradition wherever possible whilst still maintaining the glorious essence of Oklahoma!. Damon Daunno’s Curly is accompanied by a simple cowboy’s guitar and this simplicity in the orchestration (in terms of number of instruments at least) is continued throughout much of the show. “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” has rarely sounded more like a love song, and the overall impact of it finds a perfect balance between a 2019 country number and a classic musical theatre tune. 

Certain numbers don’t feel quite as changed by these new orchestrations, such as “Kansas City”, which has always sounded like an iconic cowboy number and holds onto that sense in this production. “Lonely Room” is always a sinister moment in the show, and Patrick Vaill’s performance no less so, in fact he adds more heart and draws a touch more compassion from the audience than Jud is sometimes given license to. 

“I Cain’t Say No” is remarkable, because it is sung by Tony Award winner Ali Stroker with such incredible skill and beauty, but is still covered with a sprinkling of that cartoonish Ado Annie’s shrillness that we have come to know and love over the years. The latter half of the song doesn’t half give the band a workout, as Stroker skips through every word, bringing out the comedy and proving her chops as a spectacular singer! 

Overall, you definitely don’t need to be sat in the theatre to enjoy the performances of 2019’s Oklahoma!, although I’m sure it helps. However, I thoroughly recommend sitting and enjoying this album in its entirety, and the benefit of that is you can sing along and nobody will ask you to leave your own home (you hope!). 

Review by John Charles

Rating: ★★★★
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