Richard Rodgers: Oklahoma!
Nathaniel Hackmann (Curly), Sierra Boggess (Laurey), Rodney Earl Clarke (Jud Fry), Jamie Parker (Will Parker), Louise Dearman (Ado Annie), Sandra Marvin (Aunt Eller), Nadim Naaman (Ali Hakim), Leo Roberts (Andrew Carnes), Juan Jackson (Ike Skidmore), Will Richardson (Joe), Sejal Keshwala (Gertie Cummings), Emma Kingston (Kate), Kelly Mathieson (Ellen), Rebekah Lowings (Virginia), Charlotte Kennedy (Vivian), Ceili O’Connor (Sylvie), Danny Whitehead (Fred), Michael Colbourne (Cord Elam), Freddie King (Farmer), Alistair David (tap dancer), “Oklahoma!” Ensemble, Alex Parker (chorus master), Sinfonia of London, John Wilson (conductor)
Recording: Susie Sainsbury Theatre, Royal Academy of Music, London, England (July 18‑22, 2022) – 99’43
2 SACDs Chandos CHSA 5322 (2) – Booklet in English
It wasn’t until 1943 that the world of the “American Musicals”, as we now know it, took at pivotal turn and steered the genre into one with more complexity and substance. The team of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, pushed back superficiality and frilliness and replaced it with substantive plots with characters of greater depth and issues which most humans could relate to and identify. Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, laid the foundation for Rodgers and Hammerstein. Broadway’s © premiere on March 31, 1943 was a blockbuster success, garnering a run of 2,212 performances.
Despite a 1906 ballyhoo pastiche of farmers and cowboys anticipating the eventual statehood of the Sooner State on September 17, 1907, Oklahoma! is filled with its own eminence of catchy melodies and musical pensées that wrap themselves around defining issues of dilemma, fear, hope, trust and courage...ebullience on the surface, yet tones of direct and indirect candor reach into the musical equation.
Gateshead native John Wilson has been heavily invested in the BBC Proms, the John Wilson Orchestra (which he founded in 2009) and the Sinfonia of London over the years. This 2022 release of Oklahoma! flies on the cusp of the absolute, purveyed by the authors. This World Premiere Complete Recording takes us back to 1943 with all the integral components that Rodgers and Hammerstein executed without adulteration, modification nor excess effects: we are witness to clarity and distinction. Ahead of a “first time listen” is the importance of reading through Chandos’ written interview between David Benedict, Chief London Critic of Variety, and M. Wilson. This helps explain questions surrounding the organic and genuine experience.
Reminiscent to those selected in the 1955 Cinemascope © film, meticulous attention was paid toward cast selection and the implanted voices: Nathaniel Hackmann’s buttery Curly, Sierra Boggess’ silvery‑edged Laurie, Sandra Marvin’s frank‑spirited and animated Aunt Eller, Louise Dearman’s amusingly chirpy‑swooping Ado Annie, Jamie Parker’s high‑spirited Will Parker and Rodney Earl Clarke’s light‑timbre Jud Fry. One can’t forget Alistair David’s rapturous tap dancing components (2’28) found inside “Kansas City”...what could bring a broader smile to anyone’s face? Refreshing!
Though sound remains occasionally distanced (sans loudspeaker volumetric) in certain selections (i.e. “The Farmer and the Cowman”), it’s with just reason: it proves the point that the Oklahoma! Ensemble voices are better accentuated and add greater intimacy with the listener. In M. Wilson’s words, “...there’s a wall of technology in the way. We could do with being reminded of what it sounds like to hear actual voice. Intensity of singing and playing is what makes a direct line to your emotions, not the volume level on loudspeakers. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
“Lustrous and electrifying with energy” encapsulates the Sinfonia of London’s performance. Additionally, John Wilson drives the tempo with eager ambition without flying off into outer space. One of the most beloved American musicals, this Oklahoma! rendition is foot stoppin’, whistlin' fun...grinning from ear to ear. Refreshing...inviting...absolutely pristine! Bravo!