Here from 30 June to 4 July, a new Music & Lyrics production of feel good musical Oklahoma! has been choreographed by Birmingham born Drew McOnie. We chatted to Drew about his Brummie roots and the inspiration behind the boot stomping dances in Oklahoma!
Tell us about Oklahoma! What inspired your choreography for this?
Oklahoma! is one of the most iconic musicals in theatre history. It redefined what the art form could achieve, in particular with the use of dance as a narrative device. Agnes de Mille, the original choreographer has had a huge impact on my career and indeed on the industry I now lovingly work in. Our production takes it cue from the original in as much as it’s ambition and hunger for the merging of art forms but I think it finds a new muscularity that is proving very appealing to modern audiences.
You’re a Brummie – do you come home to Birmingham a lot?
As often as I can. I have a puppy I share with my parents so we swap him as often as possible. I bet my mom would say I don’t come back enough but I’m there when there is a break in my rehearsal schedule.
What do you like to do when you come back to Birmingham?
Mostly spend time with my niece and nephew. They are growing up very quickly so I enjoy seeing them. We take them to adventure play grounds and I embarrass myself by trying to fit down the slides. If I’m not there then I’m walking the dog around the canals.
If you could recommend somewhere to eat to the rest of the cast what would it be?
Well for a special treat I would recommend Purnells as they do an incredible 7 course taster menu. Another favourite of mine is Bar Estillo in the Mailbox. It’s lovely being so close to the water.
Where do you like to shop?
I probably go between Harvey Nichols at the Mailbox and Selfridges in the Bullring. I don’t usually buy all that much but love to look around!
What are your memories of Birmingham Hippodrome?
Growing up a brummie made the Hippodrome a regular haunt of mine. I remember seeing all the major shows and sitting in the dark wishing all the wonderful imagery had come from my imagination. I remember waiting outside the stage door and meeting Wayne Sleep and being totally in awe of him. I also remember touring there regularly with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures dance company and feeling proud as punch of the facilities in the building and the passionate supportive audiences. It was a particular favourite of even the dancers who weren’t from the area. It also goes without saying that Birmingham has the best Panto in the country so I have been pretty spoilt from the get go. Choreographing last year’s Panto and getting to take my family to watch the show has to be one of my favourite memories.
What advice would you give to any young people who are interested in a career as a choreographer?
Don’t wait to be ‘ready’ or ‘old enough’. Everyone has the right to express themselves and if the way you want to do it is through dance making then start now. No one is going to ask you to start living your dream. Get in a studio and work hard, learn your craft, keep a sense of humour and strive to fall in love with the process as that’s the constant. Everything else comes and goes.
What was the easiest thing about choreographing Oklahoma!?
Getting up in the morning… I was very happy to be going to work. Also the collaborative process, the whole team came together in a very exciting and satisfying way. It was a joy to work on and that was largely down the cast and creative team.
What was the hardest thing?
Dealing with the show’s history. There was a huge amount of pressure on me to create an event on stage with the dances. I was determined to not let the show down. It gave me many sleepless nights but I’m now extremely proud of what we have achieved.
Which part of the show is your favourite?
I would probably I have to say the dream ballet. It was an epic monster to battle with and I adored every minute of it. I still get very emotional watching the end sequence. Watching how much the cast give every night is very inspiring and the way the music and movement comes together gets me every time!
Oklahoma! is here from Tuesday 30 June to Saturday 4 July. For tickets please click here or call our Box Office on 0844 338 5000 #BHoklahoma