REVIEW: Oklahoma!, Southwick Opera, Barn Theatre

Southwick Opera gave a spirited performance of Oklahoma! at The Barn Theatre last week and the musical was a sell-out success.

Gareth Ashley as Curly McLain and Megan OHara as Laurey Williams
Gareth Ashley as Curly McLain and Megan OHara as Laurey Williams

As usual, the company packed the stage in Southwick with a large ensemble for the big numbers, including an impressive dance at the box social in Act Two.

There were some impressive performances from the lead actors, too, particularly Megan O’Hara in her first appearance with Southwick Opera.

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A student at Brighton Performing Arts College, where she is studying for a degree in musical theatre performance, Megan sang beautifully in the role of Laurey Williams.

Marisa Apostolides as Ado Annie Carnes

I especially enjoyed the dream sequence that ended Act One, with Laurey worried about what she had let herself in for with Jud, the farmhand.

Jud is not an easy role to play, being effectively the bad guy in what is an otherwise pretty fun piece.

Rob Piatt was superb and richly deserved the applause he received – certainly among the loudest, if not the loudest clapping on Saturday, the final night.

Rob is an experienced performer, of course, while Gareth Ashley as Jud’s rival Curly McLain was playing his first lead role with the company, having joined the chorus for Annie Get Your Gun last year.

It was lovely to hear his voice ring out and he and Megan developed a great chemistry as the action built up towards Curly and Laurey’s wedding.

The other love interest saw Marisa Apostolides play the flirty Ado Annie Carnes and David Aitchison as Will Parker, her long-suffering boyfriend.

Marisa brought some real liveliness to the role and Eden West was really funny as Ali Hakim, the pedlar, as he desperately tried to avoid Ado Annie’s attentions.

Southwick stalwart Alison Barak kept everyone together in the role of Aunt Eller and we were eventually able to hear the full power of her voice towards the end, in Finale Ultimo.

There were some lovely dance sequences, choreographed by Su Galleymore and Wendy Galleymore, and on Saturday night, when a gun fell out of its holster during a lively number, the ensemble quietly and professionally coped well with picking up the pieces.

Most of the scenery was very good, especially Jud’s smokehouse home, but the surrey might have been best left to our imagination.