Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

30/08/2014 - 30/08/2014

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

03/09/2014 - 03/09/2014

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

25/08/2014 - 26/08/2014

Opera House, Wellington

28/08/2014 - 28/08/2014

Production Details

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s OKLAHOMA! will tour New Zealand in August and September with an all star cast.

Since its premiere on Broadway in 1943, OKLAHOMA! has been a box-office smash and is now considered the birth of the modern musical. It’s fabulous cast, set and costumes are certain to have audiences throughout New Zealand reliving their youth as well as thrilling new ones with a story that has become one of the greatest classics of all time.

OKLAHOMA! will play in 19 cities starting on 16th August. See below for dates and booking details.

Dancing with the Stars star Stefano Olivieri — dancer, singer, choreographer and actor — will play the role of Will Parker. Olivieri was adopted by New Zealand during his three seasons on Dancing with the Stars, partnering Suzanne Paul, Tempara George and Geraldine Brophy and is delighted to be returning to the country he considers his second home.

Hugely talented romantic leads Cameron Douglas (Curly) and Tizane McEvoy (Laurey) will be supported by the highly versatile and experienced entertainer Ali Harper in the role of Ado Annie — one of the greatest comedy roles in musical theatre. Veterans of the New Zealand stage, Paul Barrett and Geraldine Brophy, will play Ado’s Father and Aunt Eller.

OKLAHOMA! will be directed by former Shortland Street star Geraldine Brophy and choreographed by Jeremy Birchall and Stefano Olivieri. Musical Director is Tim Bridgewater and Set Designer is Chris Reddington.

Set in Midwest America in 1906, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and cowboys provides the colourful background against which Curly, a handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a winsome farm girl, play out their love story. Although the road to true love never runs smooth, with these two headstrong romantics holding the reins, love’s journey is as bumpy as a surrey ride down a country road. That they will succeed in making a new life together we have no doubt, and that this new life will begin in a brand-new state provides the ultimate climax to the triumphant OKLAHOMA!

The music and lyrics have proven to be some of the best in musical theatre with songs that include “Oh What a Beautiful Morning”, “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”, People Will Say We’re in Love, “I Can’t Say No”, “Oklahoma!” and many more, making this a musical treat for all the family.

OKLAHOMA! the musical that won Rodgers and Hammerstein a Pulitzer Prize, was the first musical to tell a story with music, dance and lyrics. OKLAHOMA! forever changed the form of musical theatre. It is considered by many to be the first musical comedy to have a plot, musical score and dances that were necessary ingredients to advance the story line.

It features what critics deem the greatest dance sequences in musical theatre, the ‘dream ballet’. In it, dancers portray Laurey’s confusion over choosing between her two suitors. This was one of the first times in which a dance sequence was used to move the play’s plot forwards, not just as an entertaining break in the action.


OKLAHOMA! broke all box office records when it opened in 1943. As the first musical to tell a story with music, dance and lyrics, OKLAHOMA! forever changed the form of musical theatre. It is considered by many to be the first musical comedy to have a plot, musical score and dances that were necessary ingredients to advance the story line.

OKLAHOMA! was the first musical to have its entire score recorded, thus creating the original cast album.

OKLAHOMA! won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944.

OKLAHOMA! was the first show choreographed by Agnes de Mille.

OKLAHOMA! was the longest running musical during it’s day. It held the record for 15 years, until it was taken over by My Fair Lady!!


16 – Oamaru 8pm – Opera House
17 – Ashburton 4pm – Event Centre
18 – Dunedin 8pm – Regent Theatre
19 – Queenstown 8pm – Memorial Hall
21 – Invercargill 8pm – Civic Theatre
22 – Timaru 8pm – Theatre Royal
23 – Christchurch 4pm and 8pm – CBS Arena
24 – Blenheim 8pm – Civic Theatre
25 – Nelson 8pm – Theatre Royal
26 – Nelson 8pm – Theatre Royal
28 – Wellington 8pm – Opera House
29 – Carterton 8pm – Event Centre
30 – New Plymouth 4pm & 8pm – TSB Show Place
31 – Kapiti Coast 4pm – Southwards


2 – Rotorua 8pm – Civic Theatre
3 – Auckland 4pm & 8pm – Bruce Mason Centre
4 – Whangarei 8pm – Forum North
5 – Hamilton 8pm – Founders
6 – Tauranga 4pm and 8pm – Baycourt
7 – Napier 4pm – Municipal

Revolutionary once, irrelevant now

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 29th Aug 2014

First up, the first and only time I’ve seen Oklahoma was at a Scots College production when I was in the 4th form. My 14 year self must have zoned out during the story because all I remembered was the singing and I remember it fondly. So, I am looking forward to this production.  

That wears off within the first 10 minutes as I see the comical and frankly racist treatment of the sole brown character. A Persian from Persia, apparently. In a week where Trelise Cooper is blasted on social media for the use of Native American headdress in her fashion parade as part of New Zealand fashion week , and accused of cultural poaching, I wonder if that kind of societal attention applies equally to a musical that: stereotype its sole brown character; is so misogynistic in tone towards its female characters I feel like I am in a type of parallel universe hell; has the hero encouraging the anti-hero to suicide; has a village colluding to hide a murder – and then dresses it all up as a bit of fun.

I’m up for a bit of escapism like anyone else but man, I wonder what Oklahomans think of Oklahoma. Actually, what do New Zealanders think? The word relevance keeps coming to mind. And often. 

I don’t wish to be unkind because of the obvious hard work of the cast and crew, and props to anyone able to sing and dance onstage, but c’mon, we live in a racially and sexually diverse world here and narratives like this contribute little to nothing to the Aotearoa I sit within.   

I’m not a fan of yelling as a means of displaying torment or anger. I actually misread one character (Judd) as being mentally incapacitated till it is pointed out to me he’s sexually frustrated, hence the references to French pictures and naked photographs.  Alright then.  

What I find the most jarring is the hero of the story (Curly) then encourages that character to kill himself after mere moments beforehand crooning what is a beautiful love song – ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ – to his love interest.  A few scenes later, he then proposes marriage after Laurey has what looks like to me fought off a rape by the said anti-hero – and worse, she gets all gushy on it.

Well, I don’t know many women – actually I’ll rephrase that, ANY woman – that would recover quite so quickly from a sexual attack to marriage in the click of fingers.  But then it’s a musical, and from what I’ve googled was quite something at its debut. In 1943.

The spark between Ado Annie (Ali Harper) and Will (Stefan Olivieri) is fantastic, even if he does remind me a little of Woody in Toy Story. But that could be down to the chaps.  Because of their obvious chemistry, it makes that between the two leads – Tizane McEvoy and Cameron Douglas – that much more disappointing. It feels like I am being told rather than shown in regards to their particular relationship. Though this is a musical, so you’re shown constantly, right? 

This could well be a personal thing, but the jumping in and out of accent between talking and singing means some of the cast are stronger in that regard than others. It’s particularly noticeable with Tizane McEvoy who sings in a posh English accent then, on returning to her American drawl, makes it so difficult to understand I feel like I need surtitles.

The singing saves this. The chorus harmonies are gorgeous. A particular chorus member has a beautiful voice. For want of embarrassing her and describing what she looks like, I’ll just say I hope I hear that voice again. Standouts are Cameron Douglas, whose tone and voice is just lovely, and Ali Harper, who brings so much emotion to her role she threatens to upstage the Laurey character.

The choreography and movement on the stage is ok. The set design seems a little weird in that the cast don’t seem to flow around it easily but then I am seated in the gods, which at the Opera house is vertigo-inducing, so it may just be that particular angle. 

I understand why this was revolutionary – for its time. I just really question its relevance now. That isn’t to undermine the talent or hard work of the cast and crew. They really pour it out. It’s just not my thing.


Tim Beveridge September 9th, 2014

What an excellent and informative comment by David Stevens above. I saw the production in Auckland and thought that  Rutene's performance as Ali Hakim was superb. I assumed the reason for him being Persian was to emphasize the character being a complete outsider and perhaps a bit exotic.  I never once thought about the color of his skin as opposed to the reviewer,  who apparently saw brown and immediately assumed the worst.

And I guess questions of relevance will always be subjective.  Perhaps they could have set it more locally and had Laurie and Curly discuss their relationship over a couple of trim lattes while the chorus sing "Poorrrrirua where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.." I can think of one or two directors who might think that was a good idea, and just the reviewer for that show. 

Congratulations to the cast for their wonderful performances and also the crew, whose job it was to bump out the show, and have it ready the following night in a new venue night after night.

David Stevens September 7th, 2014

Most of the criticism in the review is about the book, by Oscar Hammerstein II, and as dramatist I am puzzled at the sugestions of racism in it. Mr. Hammerestein is a revered figure in the history of the American musical theatre, not just because of the quality of his work, but also because of his profound social conscience.

In 1927, he wrote the lyrics for the extraordinary "Showboat" with it's startling attack on the cruel and absurd miscegenation laws of the time. Those laws destroy a central character, Julie, who, not coincidentally, has two of the best songs in the show - "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Bill."

But "Showboat" is lot more than that. It was the first time that that black people had been shown in a muisical as real people, not the usual "Sepin Fetchiit" caricatures, and in that, at least, it was revolutionary. Sadly, the modern PC crowd seem only to hear Hammerstain's use of the "N" word in the opening song - "Niggers All Work on the Mississippi" - and charge him with racism because of it. Yet he was using the word for a proper purpose and when it is changed, as in several modern productions, it loses its bite. Hammerstein wrote the song to give voice to an oppressed people and "Coloured folk work while the white man play" has none of the sting of the original. 

After "Oklamona" Mr. Hammerstein wrote the book for "South Pacific," again attacking racism. The heroine, Nelly Forbush, is appalled to discover that Emile, the man she loves, has two chilrden by his late Asian wife, and breaks off the romance because of it. Happily, she comes to her senses, most movingly, by the end. Not content with one interracial love story, "South Pacific" gives us a second - Lt. Joe Cable and Liat, the young Tonkinese - which ends tragially when when Joe is killed. Before that, it is Joe and Nelllie who have the song "Carefully taught" which tells us that racism is not instinctive - it has to be acquired, just as a slave mother had to teach her children that they were denied their freedom just because they were black.

People have said that this was made acceptable, then, by those soaring melodies, the gorgeous waltzes, but there's a lot more to it than that. Having just come out of a war, the audiences understood that every character in "South Paciifc" is marching to possible death on the battlefront, and issues of who you love, the colour of their skin or the shape of their eyes, become irrelevant in the face of that. Mr. Hammerstein was now gving voice to a generation - within just six years, the US Sopreme Court ruled that American schools had to be intergrated. 

Then came the book and lyrics for "The King and I," the core of which is, again, an interracial love story. So it is really quite hard for me to see the character of Ali Hakim as racist or a product of racism. Fun, yes, and a cad and a conman, sure. Anxious to bed Ado Annie? Certainly. All of "Oklahoma" is about sexual politics in rural America, which sexual politics are not so different from rural New Zealand today, where I live at least. I cannot speak for the cities. Racism is not uncommon up here, too.

Some commentators see "Oklahoma" as a stringent cxomedcy about those sexual politics, and not just the young. There is wonderful, approving essay (about the movie version) which has the headline - "Oklahoma" is one of the dirtiest movie musicals of all time" - and even Aunt Eller's "butter churning" is seen as an overt sexual metaphor.

So I'm and puzzled that anyone would be offended by Ali Hakim and I am distressed that the charge of racism is still being levelled at Mr. Hammerstein, who for my money, was on the side of the angels.


Matt Baker September 6th, 2014

Cool story bro.

Editor September 5th, 2014

Clearly the Wine Lips example was a breakdown in communication between Sam and Elephant. I prefer to think of the 'Coming Up' service as giving notice of shows that are going to be reviewed. If we are not to review a show we are unlikely to advertise it as coming up. And that would be a shame as part of Theatreview's reason for being is to write the ephemeral arts into history.

Matt Baker September 5th, 2014

Good talk.

nik smythe September 5th, 2014

Well, it was a great little play and I'm glad I saw it so Thank you.  And I appreciate the specific example.  In the Theatre reviewing Discussed forum I've just explained all I'm prepared to discuss from here on are issues related directly to actual productions, as opposed to the more nebulous blanket condemnation of our efforts.

Sam Brooks September 5th, 2014

My tone isn't particularly passive-aggressive. I'm not angry that Theatreview reviewed my show, if I was I would've emailed John after reading the review of the show, I'm just pointing out that what Matt suggested isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility. Theatreview weren't invited and they showed up; it might've been a misunderstanding and I accept that, but it still is something that happened.

nik smythe September 5th, 2014

Sure it's not a direct invitation, but we don't live in the mindset of our reviews being unwelcome. John appointed me, and emailed Elephant to advise my intention to review, and no-one told us not to.  Only now have I the first inkling.  Passive aggressive anyone?

Sam Brooks September 5th, 2014

In my mind, forwarding a press release is not the same as sending an invitation. In the future, I'll make sure the distinction is clear. Even with that, an invitation to review shouldn't be assumed from a forwarded press release.

nik smythe September 5th, 2014

Again with the lack-of-confidence shut-down; I've asked before with no response : What Can/Could We Do To Engender Said Elusive Confidence In Our Work?

I was booked to review Wine Lips over six weeks beforehand, John having forwarded a press release sent by Elephant Publicity. If people really do not want a review from us, I suggest they tell us so instead of just their own staff.

Sam Brooks September 5th, 2014

Dropping a quick comment to back Matt up on a point:

Theatreview was not invited to review Wine Lips, and I gave express instructions to our publicist not to invite a reviewer from the site and other than a media release, they were not expressly invited to review. However, a reviewer showed up on opening night and despite not being on the comp list, was allowed in to a performance to review the show without paying.

Matt Baker September 5th, 2014

Yeah, I figured that would be your response.

I never said the preference was “the expressed wish of a producer.”

My comment does not presuppose that Theatreview speaks with one voice, it presupposes a particular quality of Theatreview as a whole regardless of its contributors.

Editor September 5th, 2014

At the risk of sounding prime ministerial, Matt, I cannot recall an example of Theatreview reviewing anything against the expressed wish of a producer. When it comes to ‘development seasons’ there have been those who say they are not ready for public scrutiny (usually presented free or for koha) and those where we have been specifically asked to contribute publicly to the feedback process.

Hypothetically, however, considering part of the critic’s role is to independently inform / advise the public about what’s on offer for their discretionary entertainment dollar, one could argue we are entitled to review full-priced public seasons regardless (especially where different views can be readily added). The obvious parallel-cum-precedent is restaurant reviews where the owners and chefs never know there is a critic in the house.  

Your comment “I believe this is a direct response to their lack of confidence in the degree of theatrical criticism they will receive” presupposes Theatreview speaks with one voice, which it doesn’t (nor does TheatreScenes for which you write). There have been cases where a specific reviewer has been requested and I respond to that on a case-by-case basis.

Matt Baker September 5th, 2014

It is not my place to out people on this website. Whether or not you believe me, the “exceptions” do exist. If, for the sake of argument, they don’t – humour me. My point has nothing to do with “the freedom of critics to publish their honestly held opinions”, but with the fact that there are people who decide in forethought that they would prefer not to receive a review from Theatreview, but have had one written regardless.

I do not believe that this preference is the same as someone demanding the retraction of a review because it does not favour their production (a demand with which I do not agree). I believe this is a direct response to their lack of confidence in the degree of theatrical criticism they will receive.

Regardless of the reason and whether it exists, hypothetically, would Theatreview refrain from reviewing a show if you were not invited to do so?

Editor September 3rd, 2014

That is surprising, Matt. I can think of no exception to Theatreview reviewers being invited via comp tickets, although we have at times taken the initiative by asking producers or publicists whether they want to be reviewed. Perhaps you could name some examples so I can check my records. I have long been aware that the freedom of critics to publish their honestly held opinions is undepinned by their having been invited to do so - as was the case with the Wellington performance of Oklahoma (but never again from this producer, it seems). Beyond that it is an interesting question as to whether a paying customer is free to express their opinion publicly, without fear of legal retribution (provided they don't break defamation laws: a Australian reviewer was once prosecuted for calling a performance "dishonest").   

Matt Baker September 2nd, 2014

I agree that the producer’s demand is a ridiculous one – although I would like to see what evidence they produce to indict Theatreview with a resultant court injunction.

However, John says that “To get reviewed producers or publicists need to request it and supply information as per the 'Request a review' link to the left on this Home page.” What about the shows that do not request Theatreview reviews, but get them anyway? I know of several people who have specifically not invited Theatreview to their shows, yet have had them reviewed.

sam trubridge September 2nd, 2014

How does a picture frame around the stage help us "to draw comparisons to [sic] us as people then... and as people now"? To me this seems like a rather naive assumption about how the design will be interpreted by the audience. Perhaps it helps to distance the viewer more from the stage spectacle, but the proscenium arch of the Opera House is already built like a picture frame - so one could argue that EVERY show in the space can be seen in this way. Just because the director scatters a few 'part maori looking' performers through the cast doesn't mean that they have dealt with the issues of racial stereotype in the work at all. On the issue of prejudice, I am particularly interested in knowing what you think makes an academic soul-less too. Aside from the fact that most Theatreview critics I know aren't academics, I find this generalisation indicative of a particular NZ trait that does not value specialisation. It is rather churlish to reject or dismiss critical inquiry into a topic in this way, and I think we have enough of this from our current Prime Minister.

Ahurangi September 2nd, 2014

Sloppy review. Ali Hakim doesn't even enter in the first 10 minutes which proves the reviewer to be exaggerating, angling the production as a platform for her own agendas.

The point everyone seems to be missing is...
Geraldine Brophy, the director, has followed the script to present these issues of relevance. She is not dictating her ideas, but following the script to present the societal ideologies of then... America 1941 and our American influenced New Zealand of 2014. This is what Art does and the fact people have questioned it's relevance is missing the point. The last show I saw of this production companies they had a picture frame as the set peice for Pirates of Penzance. Suggesting for us to draw comparisons to us as people then... and as people now. Rutene did a fantastic job in his potrayal of Ali Hakim... as did Ali Harper as Ado Annie. The colour of their skin didn't affect their great performances. I noticed on the programme there was a Maori Sound Engineer and part maori looking members in the chorus.

Reviews like this don't help anyone. It's dilebarately naive. 800 people in Wellington enjoyed that show and the art in following the script closely is to present a contrast in our social ideologies. What happened to the great critics? When did Art become so ignored and fall in to the hands of soulless academics?

sam trubridge September 1st, 2014

Of course a reviewer can comment on programming decisions Matt. The decision on which specific script/libretto to present is the first choice made in the creative process: one that certainly must be questioned and considered carefully by a company before proceeding. If a script has no relevance to our contemporary culture, then why present it? Sure, I can accept that musical theatre is relatively a-political, but if said script actually promotes stereotypes or presents racist/prejudiced perspectives, then it is surely the reviewer's right to comment upon that. What you may not realise is that popular entertainment (as 'popular' and as 'entertaining' as it may be) has always been a way of communicating with the masses, of constructing/reinforcing beliefs, and maintaining the status quo. The stories we tell ourselves are important devices in the creation and preservation of our cultures, so it is well within the reviewer's right to look at this part of the creative process with an analytical and (dare I say it) critical eye. 

matt hudson August 30th, 2014

Every now and again a review is written that says so much more about the reviewer than the show. This is certainly one. Does she really think that 'Oklahoma' is supposed to be a social commentary on modern New Zealand? in that it so obviously not, why draw the comparison?

A brown person playing a brown person. Seems to me to be about as "stereotypical" as Cam Douglas playing Curly.  Rutene Spooner did a very fine job, playing the 'character' - such is the nature of acting - with tremendous comedy and energy. 

When the script dictates that a character - Curly - sings a song to another character  - Judd - that is what you do. It's in the script.

Kyle Chuen puts down a strong portrayal of Judd, who provides the contrast and darkness to give the character of Curly something to play against and Laurey something to fear. This is not bourne solely of sexual frustration. He is a simple character. There are so many script references to make that clear. 

"We live in a racially and sexually diverse culture here" ?? Of what 'relevance' is that? What did you expect? A modern Kiwi version of some deep, challenging and all-embracing spiritual work, or 'Oklahoma?' 

Your job as a reviewer is not to slam the relevance or social commentary of a script written 70 years ago. It is to write about the performance given. 

You point out to yourself on two occasions that it is a musical. It is done so in a tone that is dismissive of the genre and suggests that if "not (your) thing," why did you review it? 

i support the producer entirely on this. You try to appease the cast and crew, but how do you think they felt reading this? Your gripe seems to be against the show rather than the production. Relevance? Good question.

The sound was of a particularly high quality for a touring show, the band were tight and supported the actors well. My congratulations to Geraldine Brophy and Ben MacDonald for putting together this show, and taking it to the smaller centres as well as the main. That a large house in Wellington "went nuts" tells you everything you need to know about whether or not to go and see an old fashioned classic. Take it for what it is and enjoy.

Editor August 30th, 2014

To get reviewed producers or publicists need to request it and supply information as per the 'Request a review' link to the left on this Home page. At the risk of breaching the confidentiality of further midnight phonecalls, I will say - just so you know - that this producer has categorically stated that Theatreview will never receive reviewer comps to his productions again.

Levy August 30th, 2014

Firstly, I am suprised that this is the first review of this New Zealand tour since it has been on a fair few times already all over the country.

Secondly: Wow, to the producers phone call. You create theatre and art for the public to engange and react to surely. This review is a reaction to the "art" and just because the Producer thinks it is 'bad' review or that you don't like you you go and ask for a Court Injunction? Are you kidding me. Sometimes bad reviews make you realise what you are presenting, how you are presenting it and how you can improve on it. I support Theatreview in keeping this review up. 

On the side, I saw the production in Christchurch and sorry, Mr Producer, the reviewer is right in everything they have said. Had I not been with friends I would have left at interval and talking about it now to them, they all thought the same but none of us wanted to say it to each other at the time!

Editor August 29th, 2014

A furious producer has phoned to say this review is ridiculous, it takes no account of the 800 people who "went nuts" and had a marvellous time, and "quite frankly if it's not removed by midnight we will get a court injunction to have it removed." It will not be removed, the proper place for dissenting views is here in the Comments steam ... Watch this space.

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