Simon Gleeson Oklahoma longWhen Jeanne Pratt announced the first show for The Production’s Company 20th anniversary would be Oklahoma! there was a collective gasp in the room.

“I hope it was a good gasp!” laughed leading man Simon Gleeson.

Indeed it was a very positive reaction from those present and possibly due to the fact that for many audience members this will be their first time seeing a professional production of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Even Simon Gleeson hasn’t seen Oklahoma!

“I didn’t know it very well at all – never seen it, never seen the film,” admitted Gleeson.

“I’d heard the songs, because they’re woven into the fabric of life. This is ridiculous, but there was a great Muppets, or maybe Sesame Street, sketch of them teaching the kids vowels and it started by singing Aaaaaaa – klahoma … Eeeeeeee – klahoma, then it eventually got to Oooooo-klahoma and so it’s woven into that fabric of who we are, but I don’t know it very well at all,” explained Gleeson.

Gleeson acknowledges many audience members have possibly seen school or community productions over the years, but said the versions they’ve seen before may have been somewhat diluted down to make them more school-friendly.

“There’s some stuff in there that’s quite brutal.”

Other than this memory of puppets teaching children vowels, Simon Gleeson didn’t use any other sources than the script itself to prepare for the intense rehearsal period for Oklahoma!.

“I don’t want to do anything other than look at the script, learn it myself and then give it a go. I actually don’t want to be influenced. I don’t know if that’s a good choice, but that’s how I’ve always done it,” said Gleeson.

Oklahoma! is Simon Gleeson’s third show with the Production Company after receiving critical acclaim for his performances in Chess and Curtains. However, it’s his Helpmann Award winning portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables that audiences will most associate him with.

Simon Gleeson James Terry photo

Joining Simon Gleeson in Oklahoma! is fellow Helpmann Award winner Anna O’Byrne.

“I know Anna so well, so it will be good fun!” exclaimed Gleeson.

It’s a busy time for Simon Gleeson and his family. While Gleeson is busy with Oklahoma! in Melbourne, wife Natalie O’Donnell is wowing audiences in Perth as leading lady Donna in Mamma Mia! Their children are currently with Dad in Melbourne, so while Gleeson does as much as he can to take care of his voice, he knows vocal rest is limited when you have children. However, it seems Rodgers and Hammerstein have been kind.

“They wrote very sensible keys for me – they’re very generous!” laughed Gleeson.

Oklahoma! opens tonight at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne and plays until June 3rd.

Don’t miss it – who knows how long it will be until another professional production of this classic musical will be staged in Melbourne!

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