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I was delighted to be asked back this year to review Oklahoma! at Parkfields School, after my first experience last year.

Oklahoma! was a great vehicle for Year 8’s – with rousing songs and cowboys.  An uplifting experience, and one which we thoroughly enjoyed, and I know that the audience should be justly proud of their offspring, who gave us a fun and an energetic evening’s entertainment.

It is always a source of gratification for me, as an avid theatre goer and supporter of amateur theatre, to see the whole of the year getting involved in one way or another, if they aren’t on stage, then they help with scenery, marketing, costumes and technical considerations, which is an excellent concept – as so often the support areas of theatre are forgotten, and it is all about being ‘on stage’ – which is not the be all and end all, so special congratulations to those who helped out in whatever way they could.

The scenery was once again excellent – colourful and effective, I loved the backdrop, and the simple transformations that took place, seemingly effortlessly.  The smokehouse, and the different ranches, all accomplished whilst entre act music was played, and young ladies of the cast danced – was a good way of keeping audience interest.

The raising of the school house at the beginning of Act 2 was very good – and worked really well.

Choreography was good throughout, I was impressed at the precision of the movement, particularly from the two groups of chorus members on either side of the hall.  It was good to see movement that everyone was able to accomplish well.

Technically the lighting assisted the mood and atmosphere, helping to create good scenes, it is beneficial to the young people concerned that Paul Horsler is able to give his time to set up and advise the team on how to run the board which we hope will enthuse them for the future, and will hopefully get young people to take more of an interest in this essential part of production.

The costumes were generally suitable for the characters.  I liked Jack McCann’s outfit as the Peddler, his hat was very distinctive, and helped him create the part well.

I love the music of Oklahoma!, and although there were some songs that had of necessity been cut from the complete version, this schools version had all the main numbers that we were able to enjoy, and sing along to.

So, to the performances.  It is always a source of pleasure that young people who have not always been involved in the world of theatre before, can take on parts and give us assured performances.  There are too many in this production to talk about everyone, but I will pick out a few people who made an impact.

Harrison Watson who played Curly got the swagger of a cowboy, and utilised lots of expression, both facial and in emphasis in his numbers and lib – a great all round performance.  Very well done Harrison.

I also liked Callum Jones as Will Parker.  He was cheerful and bright, showed a good dance achievement and sang Kansas City well - a very accomplished performance that made me smile.

I was also impressed with Simeon Carr as Andrew Carnes, again good characterisation, he used his voice and dancing ability well.  Thomas Farley was Jud, which is a difficult part for a young lad to play, but I thought Tom did it justice, with his brooding expression and deep voice - nicely done.

On the female side we had Charlotte Taylor as Laurey – a charming portrayal, I enjoyed Out of My Dreams, which Charlotte sang very well.

Jude Reeves played Ado Annie, always a good comedy part, and Jude got the essence of the character with lots of expression and contrasts in ‘Can’t Say No’ – and a very ‘knowing’ portrayal.

Elizabeth Gatward gave Gertie her trademark laugh, plenty of high-pitched giggling, with the occasional snort – which I liked.

Abigail Phillips spoke very clearly as Aunt Eller, and gave the impression of being an older lady, I liked her singing during Oklahoma.

Debbie Nicholls had obviously worked really hard with her cast to get some meaning into the music, and it worked well.  There were some technical problems with mics I felt – and where the backing tracks were a little to loud, so we didn’t get a completely true sound balance, but this is always a problem in school halls, where acoustics are often not the best – however the cast tried to occupy the spaces by the stand mics where possible, so mostly the discrepancies were not too marked.

I was really impressed and thoroughly enjoyed the production, Susie Conder and her teams of both adults and young people should be very proud of their achievements, and all the relatives of the cast and technical teams must find it so satisfying that the school takes such an interest in the more eclectic side of their young people’s education, and I’m sure it is both rewarding and fulfilling for all concerned, as well as being such fun entertainment.

Parkfields Middle School - 18th July 2014


Director & Choreographer:  Susie Conder

 MD:  Debbie Nicholls


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