By William Mills
Director and Choreographer Patti Colombo bought a spectacular musical to Brighton’s Theatre Royal last night with the audience clapping on their feet with appreciation.
This famous story, set at the end of the Oregon Trail, was first hatched as a film in the 1950’s golden era of the big budget musicals, although MGM Studios produced this one on a shoe string. Yet it went on to be one of the biggest box office successes ever.
It opens with lonely farmer Adam Pontipee (Sam Attwater of BBC’s Eastenders) visiting town, or rather a small trading post and ordering himself a wife amongst other necessities.
There is immediate hostility from the town’s folk as the number of unmarried women in the outback is few. Yet Millie (Helena Blackman C4’s 20th Century Musical Greats) having lost her parents on the trail and hating her dead end job, says ‘yes!’ Her excitement turns into dismay when she discovers what she has let herself in for.
The Oregon Trail is a great epic in American folk law. A wagon trail stretching 2,000 miles from the USA‘s middle west Missouri River to beyond the Rocky Mountains. From the 1840’s onwards over 250,000 migrants headed along it seeking a better life, some finding it, others not. The trail claimed many lives, with native attacks, cold, and accidents all taking their toll. In 1869 the first transcontinental railway opened cutting the east to west journey time from around 150 days to less than a week.
The brilliant stage set truly captured the mood of the early settlers in those far off lands. The audience could almost feel the bears and wolves lurking behind the realistic looking trees.
Helena Blackman‘s singing was awe inspiring, a true professional reaching the summit of perfection. She was a real pleasure to watch too. The female cast members worn period costume of long skirts, yet they performed with ease some highly complex dance routines somersaulting through the air, and skilfully caught by their male counterparts.
Tap Team champion Jack Evans
Among the brothers Daniel (Tap Team champion Jack Evans) is the one to watch for and Ephraim (Pip Hersee) also stood out.
The brides were all beautiful and lovely, with Dorcas‘ (Carrie Willis) dance experience adding skilfully to the effect.
Musical Director Bruce Knight ensured the show came alive to the delight of the audience who even hoped for an encore to the brilliant dance routine just before the interval!
A great evening.