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Oklahoma as presented by St. Michael's Theatre Musical Society



Adjudication Performance 25th November 2023

St Michael's Musical Society New Ross was founded in 2008, a Society that is blessed to have the beautiful St Michael’s Theatre as its home for their productions. This journey for me personally was just a short hop up the road, and I was looking forward to this show immensely having played the part of Laurey myself many years ago with my own home Society, a show that I loved and still to this day hold close to my heart.

Thank you to Mr Tomas Kavanagh, the first person I met inside the Theatre, for the lovely welcome. I was looked after brilliantly by the Front of House team. So, to the welcoming Front of House Team, Mary Heffernan, Stephanie Rixon, Vivian Lee, Sue Henry, Caoimhe Doyle, Paschal Bolger, Billy Ronan, Brendan Kelly, Richie Kirwan, the Theatre Staff and may I also add the Stewards who are Voluntary Staff thank you so very much for making me feel so at home in your lovely St Michael's Theatre.

This show is special, beautifully written, and the music continues to this day to be known worldwide, instilled in the hearts of millions such as “People Will Say We’re in Love”, “Oklahoma”, and the oh so lovely “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” along with many other numbers too many to mention. I was delighted to be taking my seat to watch St Michael’s Musical Society New Ross final performance of this sell out show in my home County. I was not disappointed.

Director for this show was Mr Kevin Kennedy. There was a lovely flow to this show, from set changes to costume changes, dance movements, a diverse cast in age, and a huge amount of both musical numbers and dance numbers. Mr Kennedy absolutely brought out the very best in each cast member and despite the show being quite long, it flowed beautifully from start to finish. The only small piece of criticism I had and indeed it was only small, and it may not have been possible to cut, were a couple of the longer dance scene instrumentals and sequences which personally I believe could have been cut shorter. I understand that sometimes this is not possible but there were a few of these scenes that were a bit too long and distracted somewhat from the flow of the overall show. This observation is no reflection on the dancers – magnificent talent here and more on that later. The movement of the main characters was beautifully done with main characters Aunt Eller, Laurey, Curly, all moving about seamlessly on this stage. I felt that direction with Judd Fry was particularly good which in turn brought out great drama. There was a very natural vibe to this whole production that you only get when the Director is clear, concise, and has a vision for his or her show, and this most definitely was the case here. Well done Mr Kennedy, a very strong and talented leader of your Society and I loved your work in bringing this show to life. Beautiful.

Musical Director for this show was Mr Philip Kennedy. Another very talented gentleman, and brother of Mr Kevin Kennedy above. This duo is superb together. I loved the sound of the Orchestra from the first note. The Orchestra was up tempo, and bright, producing a glorious sound throughout the show. It was also lovely to see Mr Philip Kennedy conduct the performance as Musical Director, with Mr Kevin Kennedy as Director above, also in the pit playing Piano. Other members of this warm, beautiful sounding Orchestra throughout were, Eimear Heeney on Violin, Gerri Dunne on Cello, Ann Wickham on Reed 1, Vicky Clancy on Reed 2, Emmet Donlan on Trumpet, Greg Samla, on Keyboards, Keith McDonald on Bass, and Rory Cooper on Drums. The Musical Direction here of Mr Kennedy lifted the show to a greater level with the beauty of the sound they made throughout the entirety of the show. Well done and congratulations to the full team here under Mr Kennedys’ Musical Director. A joy to listen to. Congratulations.

Ms Claire Kickham was the Choreographer for this show. Lots of dance, and lots of movement, as mentioned above I did feel that some of the dance sequences with instrumental music could have been cut a little as they were a tad long in parts, however apart from this, dancing was secure, slick and polished. Simple but effective, with mention to “Kansas City”, and the super “The Farmer and The Cowman” and “Many a New Day “was a joy. A particular mention to the Men’s Chorus - dancing to the movement of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” was superb. Not a foot out of place. Well done lads. Ms Wickham enhanced the story and the emotions throughout this show with their movements and also empathy for each storyline and this overall was extremely effective. Well done.

Stage Manager for this Production was Ms Lizzy Heffernan, with the backstage team consisting of Crew, Mark Hayden, Mick Bailey, Les Rixon and Philip Carr. Set Design / Paint along with responsibility for Special Effects was Mr Ray Shannon along with Lighting, Bobby Kavanagh, and Sound Tomas Kavanagh. This team was very effective – there were several set changes throughout this show. This set was practical and massive use was made of every single piece of space on stage to also allow the cast to move more freely. I particularly liked the front lawn of Laureys Farmhouse, but also, I must mention “The Smokehouse” where Jud resided. It was quite dark and ominous and without Jud having to say a word but just looking at the Set, it most definitely set the tone for the whole scene and indeed throughout. It was a magnificent contrast to the bright bubbly pretty Farmhouse of Laureys. Well done to each one of you.

Costumes were provided by NOMAC Productions, with Hair by Mary Kennedy Ryan, & Brid Moloney. Makeup was by Caoimhe Kennedy Ryan, Kitty Warren and Mikaela Miskella. Costumes from NOMAC were great, looked lovely, with beautiful colour and very appropriate. Special mention to Ali Hakims Costumes – fabulous! Hair and Makeup was subtle yet professional, and very in keeping with the era, Aunt Eller’s hair was super, and Laureys hair at all times was just right. Visually this show was lovely. I am a stickler for attention to detail and it was the small things like Jud Frys Smokehouse, and Aunt Eller’s costume when she sits down to put the garters on showed magnificent attention to detail and was indeed very funny. Props by Patty Casas, and Wardrobe by Ann Marie Heffernan, Grainne Ryan, and Pauline O’Riordan was faultless. Well done team!

Eryn Buckley played the part of Laurey Williams. A lovely stage presence with such a sweet tender voice, maybe a little light on the higher notes in one or two of the numbers, such as the end of “People Will Say We’re in Love” however, overall very fine and polished performance by this young lady.. “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “Many a New Day” were two highlights of this show. Ms Buckley also has a lovely gentle graceful way of acting and speaking, with her voice as clear as a bell and her love for “her” Curly a joy to watch as the show and indeed their love for one another progressed. Ms Buckley and Aunt Eller played by Teresa Buckley had a magical connection when they were together on stage, and there were some particularly touching and special moments to remember for each of these two ladies throughout the show. Ms Buckley has a lovely facial expression, and a gorgeous stage presence. She is a talented young actress who really did this role justice in her portrayal of Laurey. Ms Buckley’s hairstyle was perfect and so pretty and I loved the small subtle nod from Aunt Eller when she sees Curly and Laurey together before exiting the stage in Act 1. Some very poignant moments for this lovely actress, and I wish you much luck in your future stage performances as I am sure there will be many. Well done Ms Buckley. You were indeed a beautiful Laurey.

The part of Curly was played by Timmy Moloney. Great stage presence and a lovely voice and great casting for Mr Moloney in this role. Your connection with Laurey was beautifully played. Mr Moloney has a lovely soft sweet sounding lyrical voice, and a nice stage presence. A lovely connection with Laurey, and these two actors were well cast together and looked great. Mr Moloney is a strong lead. The only one small part I would mention as something maybe to work on in the future is that in some places there was a tendency to slur between notes in one or two of your songs, but it was only on a few occasions and did not in any overshadow the strength of your part in this show and your excellent portrayal of the leading ma. In the scene in the smokehouse both Curly and Jud came into their own. Very well-done Mr Moloney.

Aunt Eller was played by Teresa Buckley. Ms Buckley lit up the stage with her performance as Aunt Eller. Lovely expression, a great and very funny dry humour, perfect timing, beautiful movement and a stage presence that not only enhanced her own performance but also that of her fellow cast members and the Company. Ms Buckley was a pure joy to watch, a force to be reckoned with, an undeniable maternal bond with Laurey, and a lovely genuine sweet affection for Curly. In every single scene Ms Buckley was such a strong character. Great hair, makeup, and costumes, and a gentle yet fierce character that endeared me to her immediately. “The Farmer and The Cowman” was just an amazing number. Ms Buckley, I applaud you for your role as Aunt Eller here, for all the above reasons. I loved watching you in this role, and your gift of stage sincerely touches the heart. An excellent performance. Congratulations.

The part of Will Parker was played by Anthony Finn. What a great role this young man played. Full of life and fun and bounced around the stage full of devilment! “Kansas City” was superb. Mr Finn had the bubbly persona, was a happy chap and loved Ado Annie. There was a lovely chemistry between himself and Ado Annie, and I loved each time you arrived on stage with your bubble of pure positivity, and happiness. Acting was spot on especially in your interactions with Ali Hakim and of course your love for Ado Annie, and indeed with the rest of the Company. Well Done.

Ado Annie was played by Jennifer White. A strong character, a super actress, with a beautiful memorable stage presence. I have adjudicated Ms White already this season and on the night I attended I immediately noticed her voice did appear to me to be a little hoarse. I know it was also the final performance after a long week. When you’ve such an amazing voice as I know Ms White has, then for me it was noticeable. Ms White as Ado Annie had a lovely connection with Laurey. Will Parker (Anthony Finn) and yourself looked splendid together on stage. I absolutely loved the way you sidled up to him, knowing he would do anything for you and the comedy element here was also very funny. You had him wrapped around your little finger! Again, you looked fabulous, and acting was flawless. You really are a wonderful talent on stage. Great costumes again, brilliant accent, and you oozed personality. I loved what you did with this role Ms White, and you most certainly made it your own and it was a huge success. So very well done.

The part of Ali Hakim was played by Phil Erskine. What a superb actor. So funny, so eloquent, - never missed a word with great timing and as they say in Wexford a pure chancer!!!! Your whole demeanour as this great character was adorable. You made us – your audience love you from the moment you arrived on stage. “It’s a Scandal! It’s an Outrage” was a ball of lyrics fun and energy. “All Er Nothin” with Ado Annie was a showstopper moment! A great duo together. Wonderful comedic timing, excellent diction, and wonderful movement on stage, with again, fabulous costumes. You were a wonderful Ali Hakim Mr Erskine. I do believe the comedy roles really suit you and I hope to see you involved in many more productions doing just that. Your strength is your comedic timing. You can’t learn that. It comes from within your soul. And you have it in bucketloads. Bravo.

Jud Fry was played by Keith Flanagan. Mr Flanagan created the darkness in the light of this show very well. A dark sullen, resentful, angry insolent character with a creepy fixation on Laurey was clear for all to see here in this dart sinister part creating a marvellous contrast to the rest of the show's liveliness, love and happiness. Mr Flanagan is an excellent actor with a lovely singing voice. I will admit and be honest that when the part of the show came and you caught Laurey and tried to kiss her, I found it raw, which is exactly how it is supposed to be. “Lonely Room” was as scary as hell, but sung beautifully. You have a gorgeous singing voice, and this number very much suited you. Jud is a huge part of this show as its good versus evil and of course good always wins, and you Mr Flanagan played this part with gusto, anger, envy, resentment, emotion, and raw talent and you did a great job. Bravo. A wonderful strong performance.

Mr David Burke played the part of Mr Andrew Carnes. A formidable character with great charm who instilled great “fear” (particularly with his encounter with Ali Hakim and the shotgun!) but there was also a softness about this lovely character that Mr Burke played that very much endeared me to him throughout this show. A gentleman with an excellent stage presence and a rare comedic timing that was perfect. There is no such thing as a small part and this part emphasises the importance of key roles in shows like Oklahoma and others that are not necessarily the largest ones. Mr Burke congratulations on your role as Ado Annie’s Pa, a fearsome character, great costume and an excellent all round, pivotal part in a role that was small, yet you made your own and put your own stamp on it. You were a great Mr Carnes, and I am sure you enjoyed this part, as much as we, your audience enjoyed the character you created and the comedy and indeed the seriousness of it that you brought to this role. Congratulations.

The part of Gertie was played by Sophie Blaney-Parslow. I can still hear that laugh. I know every person who plays this role must have that famous laugh but yours, yours was up there with the best. It was the ear-splitting high octave kind of a sound that was also shrill, high, getting louder and also - never-ending!!! Brilliant!!! Great part, great character, fantastic and consistently memorable laugh throughout the show and you were perfect!!!! Great costume also, super performance and well done.

The part of Cord Elam was played by James Dobbs. Firstly – fantastic costumes. Super character Mr Dobbs. You stood out on stage with your movements, dance, facial expressions, and I particularly loved the black top hat and the spindly glasses. No stranger to stage this was a superb part beautifully played by your talented self. A very solid performance. Loved you in this role. Well done.

Ike Skidmore was played by Steve Carley, again a great part well cast, very comfortable on stage and again costume very good. A lovely role. Congratulations.

The parts of Fred played by Jesse McGrath, Slim- Ger O’Riordan, Ellen- Michaela White, Kate-Abby O’Sullivan, Vivian- Sarah Mackey, Mike- Fionn Bennett and Joe played by Kevin Phelan, what a great addition to this show you all were. Movements, diction, sound and acting and of course your costumes were all spot on and you all enhanced this lovely musical beautifully. The Society are blessed to have each and every one of you as a part of their team and well done to you all on your roles and performances.

A beautiful sounding chorus for all numbers. I will mention that “Kansas City” with Will Parker, Aunt Eller and the Boys still stands out for me as a highlight here for the singing, the dance, and the actual number of male Chorus on stage – as already mentioned the envy of many societies. Well done to everyone involved in this brilliant number. The Finale Ultimo with the Full Company was simply awesome. What a magnificent sound along with the wonderful Orchestra accompanying you, this whole Company so well deserved the long standing ovation from your audience.

Finally, it was indeed so lovely to be back again in this historic and indeed beautiful St Michael's Theatre, after many years, but in a different capacity this time in my new role as Adjudicator. I thank you all for allowing me the honour of being there with each of you, on what was your final performance of the magic that is Oklahoma. Congratulations to you all. A truly wonderful evening. Thank you.

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023/24

Some photos kindly shared by the society

Photographer: Darragh Carroll

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1 Comment

As a reader , I am very upset about the statement that the music "could have been cut shorter". In this context it is an extremely disrespectful comment to make about such a classic score, and must be frustrating for the creative team to read as they were following their contract ... or in this case

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