The Young Vic’s West End transfer of its acclaimed revival of Oklahoma! has opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London, and here’s a reviews round-up from the London theatre critics.
The Wyndham’s Theatre has been completely transformed for the musical, which yesterday scored an impressive seven Olivier Award nominations across six categories, including Best musical revival.
The Olivier nominations are in addition to the London awards Oklahoma! has already won, including Best Musical and Best Musical Performance for Patrick Vaill at the Evening Standard Awards 2022, and the 2023 WhatsOnStage award for Best Musical Revival.
The show has been completely reimagined for the stage by Daniel Fish, with his original production of the show proving a sell-out in New York, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival on Broadway, and then last year wowing audiences at the Young Vic.
The musical stars Arthur Darvill (Curly McLain), Anoushka Lucas (Laurey Williams), Patrick Vaill (Jud Fry), Raphael Bushay (as Mike), James Patrick Davis (as Will Parker), Stavros Demetraki (as Ali Hakim), Greg Hicks (as Andrew Carnes), Rebekah Hinds (as Gertie Cummings), Marie-Astrid Mence (as Lead Dancer), Phillip Olagoke (as Cord Elam), Georgina Onuorah (as Ado Annie) and Liza Sadovy (as Aunt Eller). The company also includes Andrew Berlin, Arthur Boan, Shani Cantor, Anna-Maria de Freitas, George Maddison, Brianna Ogunbawo, Finlay Paul and Helen K Wint.
Oklahoma! is co-directed by Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein, with Orchestrations and Arrangements by Daniel Kluger and Co-Music Supervision by Daniel Kluger and Nathan Koci. Choreographer is John Heginbotham, set designers are by Lael Jellinek and Grace Laubacher, costume design by Terese Wadden, lighting by Scott Zielinski, sound by Drew Levy, and projection design by Joshua Thorson.
These Wyndham’s Theatre reviews are important, but this production of Oklahoma! already got fabulous reviews for its Young Vic debut last year.
Check out reviews below from the Evening Standard, The Times, TimeOut and more.
More reviews to follow
Oklahoma! is booking to 2 September 2023 at the Wyndham’s Theatre.
Book Oklahoma! tickets at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London
"Oklahoma!: an absolute knockout? Yes siree, I stand by that"
"The antithesis of the National’s much-loved revival a generation ago, this staging is richer, bolder, and feels completely new-minted"
"For here is the antithesis of the National’s much-loved revival a generation ago, where the ensemble’s yip-i-o-ee-aying rendition of the title song seemed to have the warmth of a thousand suns. By contrast, although there’s a glaring brightness to the mise-en-scène in this account, with the community-hall ethos that worked well in-the-round last time making an assured jump to a proscenium space, it’s much cooler, darker (literally pitch-black at points) fare. Fish doesn’t rush things, and builds in weird silences."
"The original’s abiding musical genius is honoured, it must be stressed. Feelgood comedy isn’t rationed, either..."
"A world of insecurity and injustice is glimpsed in the agonised face and bloodied fate of Patrick Vaill’s Jud, misfit farmhand and Curly’s love-rival. The anti-hero gives Anoushka Lucas’s admirable Laurey a parting-shot kiss she recoils from yet half-reciprocates – another touch confirming that this Oklahoma! lies on rich psychological terrain. A knock-out? I stand by that."
"Remains a rip-snorting, foot-stamping triumph"
"This reimagining of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 musical is utterly thrilling"
"Believe the hype. Daniel Fish’s radical staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Western musical from 1943 is utterly thrilling. Though the music is as gorgeous as ever, this version strips away many of the folksy, hokey accretions the show has acquired over the years and finds something much darker and more powerful."
"Onourah is the most prominent newcomer in a cast that includes actors from the runs at the Young Vic, in New York... The sweetness of Onourah’s Ado Annie stands in pleasing contrast to Lucas’s extraordinary, curbed sensuality. Likewise Vaill’s palpable anguish as Jud offsets the swagger of Darvill’s guitar-toting Curly."
"It’s not perfect: allusions to America’s gun problem feel strange in a work that whitewashes frontier history. Losing the intimacy of the Young Vic’s in-the-round staging is also felt. But this remains a rip-snorting, chap-slapping, foot-stamping triumph."
"A brutal, controversial revamp with jagged edges"
"Daniel Fish’s Tony award-winning production... is just the kind of experiment to set musical lovers at each other’s throats. Some will praise it as an audaciously grungy reinvention; others will call it sacrilege. Watching it a second time, I still find myself marvelling at some of the innovations, wincing at others. The music itself is brilliantly orchestrated (all hail Daniel Kluger)..."
"The rest of the choreography is drab too. And the story’s climax — which is way more sombre than usual — leaves us feeling like accessories to a crime."
"It looks more constricted at Wyndham’s."
"... you find yourself all the more eager to hear the ebullient Georgina Onuorah sink her teeth into Ado Annie’s songs. James Patrick Davis is winning, too, as her dunce of a lover, Will Parker. As is Stavros Demetraki’s sardonic pedlar, Ali Hakim."
"On the night I saw the show, the chants of drunken football fans in the streets outside were audible during the final, fatal showdown. Somehow, that background noise seemed appropriate: there are brutal forces at work in this show."
"Transferring to the West End, this radical take on Rodgers & Hammerstein is a dark, wild, sexy ride"
"It turns out that when people say ‘Sexy Oklahoma!’, they really mean it. Not because this production’s full of rippling biceps or heaving bosoms – or even actual sex – but because it’s an edgy, rock ‘n’ roll depiction of a community whose only way to cut loose is by having sex or firing a gun. And they do plenty of both."
"Georgina Onuorah plays an Annie whose desires can't be so easily laughed at..."
"Arthur Darvill’s Curly is a strange, nervy character who kind of hates, kind of is obsessed with his rival: Patrick Vaill's mesmerising, vulnerable Jud. And Laurey wants him, too; her eventual wedding to Curly is soaked in blood and regret."
"Visually, it’s sparse and determinedly unpretty, Wyndham Theatre’s gilded auditorium contrasting oddly with a stage lined with blonde plywood and guns (an echo of Jamie Lloyd's iconoclastic MDF-filled ‘The Seagull’ last year). Its flattened performances stifle some of the original’s laughs"
"... if you love ‘Oklahoma!’ enough to seek out this production, you're bound to be at the very least fascinated by the strange brutality it reveals at the heart of its story"
"Captivating, offbeat and pulsing with sexual tension"
"Stark, unsettling and wholly contemporary reimagining of the classic musical"
"Less a revival than a dark and unsettling reimagining of the well-loved Western-themed musical, Daniel Fish’s audacious deconstruction... is captivating, offbeat and pulsing with sexual tension. Barely-contained lust throbs under just about every line and shudders through every thump and jolt of John Heginbotham’s bouncy choreography."
"[Anoushka] Lucas sings with a soaring, sweet voice, which drops away into a plaintive but bell-clear whisper in the closing moments of the production’s standout tune, Out of My Dreams. Opposite her, Arthur Darvill’s Curly is anything but a traditional romantic lead. Swaggering, sleazy, and infuriatingly insouciant, he presents a gripping study in cruelty and toxic overconfidence. Patrick Vaill gives a fascinating, horribly magnetic performance as disturbed drifter Jud Fry."
"Swaggering revamp thrums with sexual tension"
"Daniel Fish’s Tony-winning version of frontier country is stark: an uncompromising place of rough justice"
"Any piece of classic theatre worthy of the name ought to be strong enough to withstand a dose of robust revisionism. This pertains for musicals just as much as straight plays"
"I’ll come clean straight away and say that I didn’t find the show quite as revelatory as it seems to find itself. It’s certainly self-satisfied, in a manner that can occasionally tip over into the effortful. Nonetheless, it does have a lot to be pleased with, not least the way it jolts us straight out of our received idea of Oklahoma as a ye-haw jolly knee-slapping sort of set-up."
"The second half lets rip with the foot-stomping, but it’s the opposite of an uncomplicated celebration as marriage and death ensue. It might be, as per the famous opening number, a “Beautiful Mornin’”, yet the day is anything but unclouded."
"Oh, what a thrilling hoedown!"
"Sexy, spare and stunning"
"Shameless Ado Annie isn’t the only one who ‘Cain’t Say No’ in Daniel Fish’s remarkable rethink of Oklahoma!, in which the frills, hoedown hokiness and lush orchestration expected in a revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic are stripped away."
"The result is thrilling, dark, dangerous and very, very sexy. An outrage according to some, but more than OK by me."
"Some scenes are played out in total darkness — all the better to hear the shame and fear. Others burst with sunshine and fun, such as whenever Georgina Onuorah’s Ado Annie flutters her lashes at Stavros Demetraki’s slippery pedlar. Stunning."
"Who can say no to this Rodgers and Hammerstein reinvention"
"New York director Daniel Fish’s Tony-winning vehicle, which is now in the West End after a run at London’s Young Vic last year, is a feat of transformation. Without sacrificing the entertainment of the original, he has excavated a spare American drama, with a shattering finale to rival Lorca’s Blood Wedding."
"Opening the second half, choreographer John Heginbotham introduces a brave new dance, performed by mesmerising Marie-Astrid Mence in a T-shirt dress bearing the glittering text “Dream Baby Dream”. She is careless, wild, yet introverted. For in this production, complicated human feeling is always honoured: dejection, yearning, loneliness – all the dangers of being human."