One of Brisbane’s premiere community theatre groups will be taking a giant step forward when they mount their first fully-professional production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in April. Peter Pinne talks to their Artistic Director Tim O’Connor.

Peter Pinne: Why have you chosen Oklahoma! to be your first professional production?

Tim O’Connor: Because it goes back to the beginning of musical theatre. It was the show that began the modern musical theatre and it hasn’t been done in Brisbane for a very long time. I think the last professional production of it was way back in 1981 the year I was born.


PP: Do you have an affinity with the work?

TO: It’s one of those shows I have a love/hate relationship with. I have great respect for it, but in any production I have seen of it there have always been aspects of it I wanted to change. Not the script or the music, but the production. Now I’ve got my chance to put my own spin on it.

PP: Some people believe Rodgers and Hammerstein to be old-fashioned, but with the recent success of South Pacific it would seem the public still loves them. What is your opinion?

TO: You won’t find me saying a bad word about them, after all they started the musical drama genre. Oklahoma! might be 70 years-old but the story still stands up and so does the music. As it does with most of their shows.

PP: Will every performer be paid Equity rates?

TO: Yes.

PP: How many in the cast?

TO: 20.

PP: The show is booked to play the Concert Hall at QPAC. Will it be a fully-staged production or a semi-staged concert along the lines of Melbourne’s Production Company productions?

TO: That’s a question I’ve been asked before. It will be fully-Staged.

PP:This is a brave move for Harvest Rain to turn professional. I think the last time a community theatre company turned pro in Australia was when La Boite (Brisbane) did it in 1992. Will we see more professional productions on your performance slate in the future?

TO: Absolutely. It’s always been our wish and intention to be a professional musical theatre company. Oklahoma! is our chance to put our toe in the water.

PP: Oklahoma! is an iconic musical in that it was the first musical to introduce a dream ballet. “Laurie Makes Up Her Mind” comes at the end of the First Act. Will you be casting ballet performers for the dream ballet as has happened in previous productions or will the principals be doing their own dancing for the sequence?

TO: Everyone will be doing their own dancing. Ian (Stenlake) and Angela (Harding) are currently rehearsing their ballet steps.

PP: What size orchestra will be used?

TO: A 25 piece and it’ll be on-stage. I thought if we’re going to have a 25 piece orchestra then let’s see it, so they’ll be placed around the set.

PP: How long will the season be?

TO: Six performances. It’s a short season. We’re testing the waters with this one to see how it goes.

PP: Is there a chance to extend the season if the show sells out?

TO: Not at this time, but depending on the success of the show we could remount it at a later date.

Oklahoma! stars Ian Stenlake as Curly and Angela Harding as Laurie with Glenn Ferguson (Will Parker), Erica Naddei (Ado Annie), Val Lehman (Aunt Ella), Stephen Tandy (Andrew Carnes), Andrew Conaghan (Jud Fry) and Matty Johnston (Ali Hakim). Direction: Tim O’Connor, Musical Director: Maitlohn John, Choreograher: Callum Mansfield, Design: Josh McIntosh. It plays at the Concert Hall, QPAC, 17-20 April.

Images (from top): Val Lehman, Angela Harding, Andy Conaghan and Ian Stenlake; Angela Harding (Laurey) and Ian Stenlake (Curly); Val Lehman (Aunt Eller) and Andy Conaghan (Jud)

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