THE old Surrey with the fringe on top was wheeled out at the City Hall this week as Musical Theatre Salisbury (MTS) returned with their latest production of Oklahoma!

Set in the Western Indian Territory in the early 1900s, Oklahoma! is a love story, highlighting the rivalry between the farmers and cowboys.

This MTS interpretation saw Stuart Taylor at the helm for the first time, admirably directing a 40-strong ensemble of singers, actors and dancers.

It was a slick and utterly professional rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first ever musical. Every song was performed with charm and character and the southern American accents were strong and unwavering throughout.

Opening with Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, burly cowboy Curly, played convincingly by Dave Simmons, tries to entice young farm girl Laurey (Emma Clammer) to attend the ‘box social’ with him. But wholesome Laurey isn’t yet convinced that cowboy Curly is the man for her. Emma Clammer’s operatic voice was strong and euphonious as she sang Many A New Day and Out of My Dreams.

Will Laing was aptly cast as handsome young cowboy Will Parker, longing for the hand (and monogamy) of his sweetheart Ado Annie. Emily Caley perfectly replicated the twangy vowels of Ado Annie in her rendition of I Cain’t Say No.

Sue Goddard as the matriarch Aunt Eller was strong and stable while Robert Preedy brought some humour to the show as the Persian peddler Ali Hakim.

Of course, Oklahoma! has some dark undertones and Angel Cascarino brought a vulnerability to the lonely, troubled farmhand Jud Fry.

Under conductor Ian Hooper, the orchestra gave the show its mid western flair while choreographer Sara Collinson galvanised the dance routines.

The production was jam-packed full of music and dance with some beautiful solo performances and duets but, for me, it is when the group sings as an ensemble that their voices truly shine. Musical director Liz Weager had perfectly polished the harmonies so much so that the group rendition of 'Ok-lahoma! Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain...' literally gave me goosebumps.

Praise to all at this amateur musical theatre company for producing yet another production with a very professional feel.