Witham Amateur Operatic Society at the Public Hall
A delicious slice of sweet potato pie from WAOS, in their fourth visit to Indian Territory.
From the first rumbustious bars of the overture [MD is "Pluck that banjo to pieces, Geoff!" Osborne] it's clear we're in for an enjoyable ride, with polished, stylish performances from a large cast, and an enthusiastic chorus of ranchers, farmers and their gals.
Gareth Gwyn-Jones is a likeable Curly, powerfully sung and a strong presence on stage; his Laurey, sassy in her bare feet and dungarees, is Corinna Wilson, her beautiful voice and easy charm deployed to wonderful effect on her menfolk: the tortured Jud Fry [compellingly characterized by Stewart Adkins, in his porn-bedecked smokehouse] as well as her cowboy of choice. Their People Will Say duet one of many musical highlights.
The other couple, Abigail Lowman's larger-than-life Ado Annie and Michael Watlings' agile Will, are a delight too, in their duet, as well as the Kansas City and Cain't Say No solos. More young blood for the Persian pedlar; if James Simpson's accent is less than convincing, he scores highly on comic timing and dress sense.
The older generation is capably represented by Anne Wilson's excellent Aunt Eller, feisty, wise, and very funny, as well as Ron Howe, appearing in his fourth Oklahoma, this time as Judge Carnes.
Robyn Gowers directs with an experienced eye for detail and the bigger stage picture – the wedding group, happy couple aloft in the spot just one example. Nice to see the Dream Ballet, too.
One or two characters do have a tendency towards "standing like statues" and a dark stage lit by spill from the house is never a good look, but the packed audience on the last night enjoyed a splendid show, a shining example of the best of amateur musical theatre.