BWT Review

Old favourite was a popular choice

WITHAM Operatic Society’s revival of that triumphant musical, Oklahoma!, at the Public Hall last week, was a most popular choice. If there were no show stopping moments of sheer excitement this time the level of entertainment was high indeed and Stephen Kenna’s musical direction extracted full value from all the well-loved melodies.
Stewart Adkins and Lara Barber looked just right at the attractive young couple in love and Lara’s graceful dancing was an added bonus. Pat Briggs used the 12 years since she starred in the leading role to build up a comforting picture of Aunt Eller as did Geoffrey Coverdale with his richly comic, larger-than-life Ali Hakim.
Often in amateur productions the dream ballet is a prolonged hiccough and can be a bore. Not this time, however, thanks to some splendid choreography by Cynthia Stead and her part-time ballet dancers. Particular praise must go to Kathryn Adkins, Brian Henderson and Ron Howe together with the gorgeous cancan girls Helene Jones, Patsy Doy and Julie Hampshire - the economy-sized programme did not identify them which was a pity.
Cynthia Stead, herself, contributed a most diverting impression of Ado Annie, full of expression and Simon Mitchell, although his costume appeared to have come from Stratford-upon-Avon, was a lively Will Parker.
But the serious actors turned their backs on any suggestion of a fancy dress ball and Nicholas Clough’s study of tortured Jud Fry was as good as they come. Ernie Law’s elderly Andrew Carries was masterly and Tim Sheppard’s make-up as Cord Elam was good enough for Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Lydia Clough screamed her way into the principals’ list as giggling Gertie with Ron Howe, Ewart Cornfield and Malcolm Lowe sound in smaller parts.
They have a very fine chorus line here but the line, this time, seemed a little straighter than usual especially for the men. Peter Green’s direction resulted in a smooth-running production of this old favourite. The Wednesday performance was distinguished by the re-appearance of the 1971 leading man. Business duties prevented Stewart Adkins taking the stage that night so David Fletcher, now resident in Yorkshire, returned to the scene of his former triumphs. As Curley, his fine voice and assured stage presence provided an evening of pleasure to a packed house and revived many happy memories of the days when he was a prominent figure in local operatic circles.

Gilbert Sutcliffe

Aunt Eller, Pat Briggs;
Curly, Stewart Adkins;
Laurey, Lara Barber;
Ike Skidmore, Ron Howe;
Fred, Ewart Cornfield;
Slim, Malcolm Lowe;
Will Parker, Simon Mitchell;
Jud Fry, Nicholas Clough;
Ado Annie Carnes, Cynthia Stead;
Ali Hakim, Geoffrey Coverdale;
Gertie Cummings, Lydia Clough;
Andrew Carries, Ernie Law;
Cord Elam, Tim Sheppard.

Chorus: Kathryn Adkins, Jean Bracey, Alison Brewer, Patsy Doy, Julie Hampshire, ]anice Hawkes, Ann Hunt, Helene Jones, Marie Keane, Clare Lager, Angela Lait, Cynthia Meek, Elisabeth Miller, Yvonne Mitchell, Susan Page, Ian Saunders, Anne Sheppard, Mandy Smith, Carole Turner, Christine Willetts, Jo Wood, Dick Enfield, Brian Henderson, Derek Hunt, Roger Munt, Dennis Page, Tim Smith and Tony Wood.

Stage manager, Audrey King;
Technical director, Ken Hawkes;
Light, Robin Dedman, Nigel Barber, Mark Weiss;
Stage crew, Les King, Mick Adams, Jim Fensom, John Reed, Philip Harris, Roger Clark, David Knight, Rod Gayton, David Hunt, Derek Hunt;
Properties, Sonya Carter, Eve Knight, Dorothy Reed, Sally Bell;
Wardrobe, Kate Stevenson and assistants;
Make-up, June Smith, Lucy Sheppard;
Prompt, Kath Adams;
Accompanist in rehearsal, Judith Flint;
Front of house manager, John Gunson;
Programmes, June Locke;
Scenery, Stage Sets, London; costumes, Lyndon Theatrical Hire and the society.

Leader, Graham Snelling; 2nd violin, Geoffrey Naylor; viola, Richard Evans; cello, James Dixon; double bass, Stan Smith; flute, Sid Cooper; clarinet, RobertLindsell; oboe, Sarah Dow; cornet, Roland Morris; horn, David Bentley; trombone,David Cawdell; Percussion, Malcolm Browning and piano, Judith Flint.