Beloved Musical Falls Flat for Older Audience, Leaving Many to Exit Early
By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
While I normally don’t review the performances of the Broadway Series presented at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, I thought I’d chime in on the recent enactment of ‘Oklahoma!’ offered up as the final show in the 2021-22 season. To say it was a mockery or a sham is putting it loosely. ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning’ quickly turns into ‘Oh, what a horrendous evening’.
Famed creators Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein are no doubt rolling in their graves trying all they can do to set their classic musical right. Sadly, ownership of the original 1943 stage play was sold to a Netherlands-based pension fund in 2009 with New York director Daniel Fish deciding to modernize or is this case butcher it for its 75th anniversary.
Before the less than stellar actors take the stage, you can sense there is something amiss. Set design is atrocious and unimaginative (picnic tables & rifles hanging from the walls), clearly an area the producers decided to save money on. Also missing is an orchestra, almost key to any Broadway production, with an ordinary seven-piece band assembled behind the wooden tables.
The musical goes way down south from that point. Clearly the time period is out of sync. Aside from couple of voices, singing when not over the top is just plain poor, and choreography doesn’t exist. Midway through the first act I began to see patrons making their way to door. At intermission it became more of a ghost town in the audience. Clearly, this is not your parent’s or grandparent’s rendition
The 2022 touring musical production of Oklahoma is a travesty and has more in common to a low budget parody put on by a backwoods high school theatre group. Think Hee-Haw meets Saturday Night Live. If this is considered the Best of Broadway then the producers definitely got this production wrong. In some cases it’s best not to re-invent a classic. Surprisingly reviews have been mixed. No doubt younger audiences unfamiliar with the original have found Oklahoma 2022 dark, disturbing, and oddly entertaining.
Thankfully since Charleston is considered a midsize market the production only carries a weekend run. I feel sorry for larger markets where this less than professional spoof of a Broadway treasure will play for more than a few performances. Theatre goers expecting a revival of the classic will be sadly disappointed. Perhaps they’ll do research, read this piece or others online and opt out.
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