Oklahoma show in Doha

Rogers and Hammerstein musical comes to Qatar

Oklahoma show in Doha
Oklahoma show in Doha Image #2

The wind comes sweeping down the plains, bringing Senter Stage’s production of Oklahoma to Qatar. Director Angela Walton tells us how it’s more than just songs about surreys with fringes on top.

What is this musical about?

Oklahoma is the first of the famous Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. Set in a Western town in Oklahoma Territory (USA) in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his fiancée, Ado Annie. Rogers and Hammerstein have written many other great musicals such as The Sound Of Music, The King And I, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and South Pacific.

Out of them all, why pick this one?
Oklahoma has some really great songs in it. One of the most well-known songs in this show is “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and of course the title piece“Oklahoma” and there are some great characters as well. Our production of Oklahoma will mark the 70th anniversary of the show’s opening performance on Broadway in March 1943.

Will people in Qatar get it? We’re pretty far from being home on the range. . .
The story line is a classic, but simple boy-meets-girl and there is plenty of singing and dancing, which combine to make a visual treat with great sets and colourful costumes.

What’s special about it?
It is a musical you can have so much fun with; Hugh Jackman (who has just won a Golden Globe for the movie Les Miserables) played Curly in the London West End production. It has all the right ingredients: cowboys, ranchers, bad guys, dancing girls and of course the central story between Curly and Laurey. Oklahoma is suitable for all ages.

What’s special about the Doha production?
We have a number of new faces to Doha this year and I have been very lucky to have them join us. Also, this is a musical and the musicals cannot be done without a vocal coach and of course an orchestra. It is a huge honour for the cast of Oklahoma to have Brita Fray once again who is the Orchestral Director for The Doha Community Orchestra join us and get us all in top tip shape. Many of the Miss Saigon cast, which I directed in 2010, have joined us again for this production of Oklahoma, with some notable new faces like Stephanie Gravell who is new to Doha and plays the lead of Laurey alongside her husband Brandon who plays Judd. There are other new faces in the chorus and some of the adult actors are joined by their children in the show, which gives a real family feel to rehearsals. All round, we have some very good strong singing voices and some very talented actors indeed.

What how are rehearsals like? Is it a mad house?
On a Monday evening I do the blocking and acting with the adults. Wednesday evening is dedicated to Brita and the music. These rehearsals are usually two hours. On a Saturday it is split between the choreographers and myself. Also on a Saturday we have the children join us, the youngest being Ellie, Maryan, and Evie who are just five and six.

What is challenging about this production?
Putting it all together and making sure it runs smoothly. Also, watching the choreographers put the chorus through their routines. Kristina and Lauren who are the choreographers for Oklahoma have taught the cast to do a line dance routine to the song “The Farmer And The Cowboy”, which is very funny; this has been most entertaining during rehearsals.

Is that your favourite part? What do you love about this show?
Before each performance, when the orchestra tune their instruments, watching the cast do sound checks, the smell of the make-up, watching the audience take their seats and then the moment the house lights go down and Brita picks up her baton and the overture starts. Then for two hours you forget all your troubles and are totally entertained!
Oklahoma takes to the stage at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on March 1 and March 8, with an additional 7.30pm evening performance on March 7 and matinees at 2.30pm on March 2 and 9 at Doha British School. Tickets are QR75 for the tiered seating or QR100 for the first four rows, available at The One in Villaggio Mall and Landmark Mall. For more information, email Oklahomadoha@gmail.com

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