Review Roundup: What Do The Critics Think of Reimagined OKLAHOMA! at St. Ann's Warehouse?
Bringing audiences and artists together in this production under the vast canopy of St. Ann's Warehouse, Fish illuminates the musical form's essentials to better expose the show's emotional range and layered characters. The result is a production as fresh and revelatory as if it were written for today's America.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Jesse Green and Ben Brantley, The New York Times:
Brantley: The ending has been slightly altered since I first saw this production three years ago (part of Bard SummerScape at Annandale-on-Hudson) but not enough to change the sense that it's a bit of a cheat. The feel-bad conclusion is the most open and most facile act of rebellion on Mr. Fish's part.
Green: And yet I understand what he was aiming for. With all its balancing of light and dark, his "Oklahoma!" is a rollicking good time: The jokes have never been funnier, the merry songs merrier. But there was no way he was going to leave us, in 2018, with an uncomplicated feeling about the workings of justice in America or about the wisdom of having formed a union from incompatible states. To that extent, I understood the crash landing he engineered.
David Finkle, New York Stage Review: Sure, there's much to enjoy about this often-understated presentation-all that sitting and bantering. It's a swell idea to have Curly (Damon Daunno) enter accompanying himself on guitar as he sings "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." That opening solo was a shocker in 1943, but how could it have the same cliché-shattering effect now?
Nicole Serratore, The Stage: New musical arrangements compliment these fresh angles on familiar material. Clanging electric guitars resound through the dream dance. The on-stage seven-piece band lends a slowed-down tempo and softer sound to the musical's best known songs. Fish's use of tension-building silence, a cappella numbers, and total blackouts, further unsettles things.
Matt Windman, amNY: For the most part, this proves to be an intriguing and compelling interpretation that allows the audience to experience "Oklahoma!" with fresh eyes and ears. It is far preferable to the kind of uninspired, forgettable revival you might see at a regional theater.
Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: To be clear: you won't leave St. Ann's feeling miserable, but neither will you be slapping your knees. "Wow, that was dark," one man said behind me. It was, but it feels less "dark" than sensibly and successfully inquisitive. Fish and his cast ask reasoned questions of a musical which has contained all these questions in plain sight for many years-and in this Oklahoma! those questions are answered with vivid life and pugnacious confidence.
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: There will no doubt be many who consider this Oklahoma! a revelation, especially those who have only seen mediocre, cornpone productions. But while a lesser musical might benefit from such reinterpretation, Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic work, revolutionary for its time, really doesn't. It stands up very well on its own. So well, in fact, that it survives even this.
David Cote, Observer: Sexy, suspenseful and with a fresh, exuberant sound, this is an Oklahoma! to hoot and cheer and stomp your boots at. If it's your first time, you will be amazed that two middle-aged white guys in the middle of WWII wrote a show about 21st-century America's discontents.