FROM LEFT: Aunt Eller (Kristine Berg), Curley McLain (Werner Viln) and Laurey Williams (Victoria Harris).


DIRECTOR: Teddy Davies

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Alastair Cockburn

CHOREOGRAPHY: Kyla Thorburn after Agnes de Mille, Roxy Levy

CAST: Members of the Cape Town Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra

VENUE: Artscape Opera House

UNTIL: August 3

Rating: ***



TEDDY Davies has earned a considerable reputation for the calibre of his productions for the Cape Town Gilbert & Sullivan (G&S) Society, and these are not limited to Savoy Operas.

Musical theatre enjoys a generous share of the G&S Society’s repertoire, so it was inevitable that the day would come for a classic among American musicals to be staged under Davies’ direction: Oklahoma! is the first and arguably the most innovative work created by Rodgers and Hammerstein – and one of the best-loved.

It turns out to be a triumph for the long-established collaboration between Davies, his musical director Alastair Cockburn, and choreographer Kyla Thorburn.

As its title suggests, locality is a key element in Oklahoma! and Johan Badenhorst’s imaginative sets, a rich soundscape by Liam Cookson and Faheem Bardien’s lighting design combine to provide a picturesquely credible sense of place for the action.

And there is action aplenty in the fast-paced plot, featuring volatile, trigger-happy lovers, the flirtatious objects of their desire, and the birth-pains of a territory in transition from cattle-breeding to crop-farming as it becomes a new state of the US.

Strong leads are essential to such a show, and Werner Viln’s Curly has what it takes to woo an audience: lung power, personality and a firm grasp of his persona. So has Sian Atterbury (Laurey), although her portrayal is more stylised and gesture-dependent than the more natural approach of Victoria Harris in the same role. Both make appealing heroines.

Werner van Coller, the alternate Curly, brings warmth and commitment to his reading of the lead, while Jason October is well cast as the dark and predatory Jud Fry, a sinister foil to the bright naiveté of those around him.

Neil Leachman is particularly impressive, doubling up as an alternate Jud Fry and the comical pedlar Ali Hakim. The two charac- ters could hardly be more dissimilar, yet he is plausible in both, with a sustained command of accent.

Another versatile performer is Allana Aldridge, whose comedic flair shows to advantage in the contrasting roles of the sweet and mindless Ado Annie, and the intensely irritating Gertie Cummings.

Fiona Carling’s Aunt Eller is well-rounded, effortlessly maintaining her distinctive accent; Kristine Berg injects a pleasing acerbity into the same role.

Both alternate casts have strengths to guarantee audience satisfaction, and what is common to both, is the enchanting dream ballet, choreographed by Roxy Levy, in which Laurey’s dilemma is enacted. Led by Caroline Kotzé, the ensemble performs with an expressive elegance which complements the brio of Agnes de Mille’s dances for the whole cast, overseen by Kyla Thorburn.

The Cape Philharmonic plays crisply under Cockburn’s baton, with delicate pianissimo under-scoring vocal performance as required.

Throughout this show there is a pervasive joyousness generated by the sizeable cast right up to the colourful finale.

So… You’re doin’ fine, G&S Society! OK! Yeeouw! Encore!