Oklahoma! at the Mayflower in Southampton

Ashley Day admits he’s maybe not the best person to judge given he’s the one singing it.


But he reckons there can’t be a finer start to a musical anywhere than Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! which opens with his character Curly delivering Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.

You’re right there and in the mood for a great night.

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It’s a 19-week tour and so far, more than so good. Audiences are loving it: “We have had an amazing response from audiences. They are very different each time, but always welcoming. Some audiences are quieter than others, but in Dublin... Well, obviously there are funny moments in the show, but they treated it like it was hilarious – which amused us!”

So which does Ashley prefer? Quiet or loud?

“I am not sure I have really got a preference, but I do like to know they are enjoying it, especially when you are doing an old show. With Oklahoma! most people remember the songs, but don’t remember the story. They forget what actually happens even though there are actually some quite brutal moments in it. But they do remember the songs.”

Starring Belinda Lang as Aunt Eller and Gary Wilmot as Ali Hakim, the production has been directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and with new choreography by Drew McOnie. Dates include Southampton’s Mayflower from May 5-9 (023 8071 1811).

Set in the Oklahoma territory in the early 1900s, the musical tells the story of two sets of star-crossed lovers. Cowboy Curly loves Laurey, Aunt Eller’s niece, but Curly’s rival is the mysterious and dangerous hired hand Jud Fry. Meanwhile, Ado Annie is torn between cowboy Will and peddler Ali Hakim.

Their stories are told with the help of some of the best-loved songs in musical theatre history, including Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, I Cain’t Say No, The Surrey With the Fringe on Top, Kansas City, People Will Say We’re in Love and the title song.

“It was great working with (director) Rachel. She just has this laugh. I think I found about about it at the first audition. She just giggles, and it makes you relax. You realise she has got no ego, no bridge between you and the creative team, and you just know she just wants to get the best out of you and out of the show. It is so important to have a director like that. I have had more experiences that have not been like that. As an actor, you want to feel you can bring something to the show, you can express your ideas. If there is a divide, well, it is not good. It can cause friction and maybe not a good production. I just want to be in a production where everyone gets on with everyone else and is happy. That’s how you get the best shows.”

Ashley has got plenty to play with in the character of Curly: “He is like the ultimate bachelor until he has to give in to real feelings and say ‘OK, I love you.’ Until then, he plays around. He just does want he wants. He messes her around by bringing other girls in. There is a cockiness about him that is fun to play.”

And also, that famous 15-minute ballet scene.

Some actors and actresses step back at that point and a double steps in, but not Ashley and Charlotte in this show: “Having myself and Charlotte do it helps keep the narrative of the piece. Having invested in these characters, the audience don’t want to see someone else do it at that point.”