The original Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is revamped at the Young Vic in all its bucking glory. But this is no corny production or cowboy operation; Daniel Fish and Jordan Fein have brought the Sooner State up to date, harnessing the sex and scandal that lay for 80 years beneath the surface.
Oklahoma! eschews elaborate staging for a bare room lined with tables, audience members perched intimately close to the action. The houselights are up until Pore Jud Is Daid, when our hero tries to convince a mentally ill person to kill himself, at which point the auditorium is plunged into darkness but for handheld closeups of the actor’s faces smeared against the back wall. It is a jarring moment yet highly effective in forcing us to confront the subversion at the heart of this revival. The ending sheds new light on American privilege and its treatment of outsiders, no longer content to plough the old mythology of dangerous mice and leading men.
At the same time the show never skimps on joy or hilarity, the cast relishing the comic roles of Ali Hakim (Stavros Demetraki), Will Parker (James Davis) and Ado Annie (a brilliant Marisha Wallace). Doctor Who‘s Arthur Darvill shows he can sing and play guitar, bringing an interesting sleaze to the part of Curly, opposite Anoushka Lucas’ refreshingly tough Laurey. They all drink throughout, Bud Light signalling the present day as much as the general raunchiness. And then there’s the songs, so timeless and so many: Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, People Will Say We’re in Love… and that’s just the first half hour.
There is another month to catch this immediate, slightly haywire production that slings a lasso of truth round one of the all-time great American musicals.