Oklahoma, The Good Companions Stage Society

OkFlyer.PNGA classic musical can be a tough challenge to carry off – they come with a lot of expectations and the songs are familiar to all.

In Oklahoma’s case this reviewer has to confess to knowing just about all the words having listened to a recording of the score continuously for a short period in the 70s and watched the film at least a dozen times.

As a cub reporter a decade later it was one of the first shows I was sent to review – so I consider myself something of an expert.

And it is with that knowledge that I can tell you the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical at Derby Theatre this week is pretty damn good.

You don’t always need flashy effects to win over an audience and The Good Companions Stage Society proved that with a good story some catchy songs (Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, I Cain’t Say No and People Will Say We’re In Love) and strong performances from the cast you will get the applause you deserve.

The show is great for amateur groups thanks in part to its minimal scene changes and most have done it once or even twice. The Good Companions first performed it in Derby in 1991 when it sold out eight weeks before the first night but in these days when competition for our leisure time is high it is a brave decision to opt for a show written in the 1940s – especially if you are trying keep the interest of your younger members.

But this stage society needn’t worry, as it has a mixed age cast that is bursting with energy and life and all of them obviously relish the chance to have a go at a classic.

Under the direction of Phil Simcox, with choreography by Pauline Reader and music directed by Morris Fisher they have done a fabulous job of bringing the show to life.

The central characters of Laurey, played by Helen Perry and Curly, played by Andy Quinn are perfectly cast and both are strong singers who give faultless performances. Helen is very much the leading lady and seems to enjoy every minute on stage – especially when she is dancing.

There are also some superb performances by the support actors. Rachel Clines as Ado Annie gives a delightful rendering of I Cain’t Say No and Andrew Buxton as Will Parker was definitely a hit with the audience. His successful lasso challenge during the Kansas City song raised a huge cheer from the auditorium.

Phil Stanley as Jud Fry is equally as impressive during his solo – Lonely Room.

The rest of the cast is Yvonne Taylor as Aunt Eller, David Orange as Ali Hakim, Anthony Varney as Andrew Carnes and Alex Davidson as Gertie Cummings.

The Ladies Ensemble is Helen Burton, Louise Curd, Sara Evans-Bolger, Adela Green, Stacey Hyndman, Katherine Jones, Heidi Lewin, Ellie Mallinson, Debs McPherson, Angela Plant, Lisa Scott-Savage. The Mens Ensemble is Iain Barnett, Paul Brenham, Brian Counter, Michael Foster, John Hales, Ollie Hand, Scott Mill, Matt Powell, Joshua Robinson, Keith Scott-Savage, Tom Stanley, Charlie Torry and Cameron Trail. The orchestra is Helen Wallace, Nick Stacey, Lilla Di Micelli, Matt Roberts, Dave Adey, Jez Francis, Jon Orton, Lizzie Spear, Jeff Widdowson and Nick Anderson.

Lighting was by Harry and Steve Greatorex and sound by Simon Birchal. Wardrobe mistress was Marion Fisher.

The show is on at Derby Theatre until October 25 for tickets go to http://www.derbytheatre.co.uk