Sheffield show sees darker side of musical favourite

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One of the stars of Oklahoma! in Sheffield next week is enjoying exploring his character’s darker side.

Ashley Day plays cowboy Curly, whose love story with Laurey is at the centre of the show.

Curly’s rivalry with the mysterious and dangerous hired hand Jud Fry casts a shadow over the couple.

Things come to a head at the box social, where the men compete for picnic baskets made by the young women, which will give them a rare chance to be alone together.

There is lots of light relief with the comical Ado Annie, the Girl Who Cain’t Say No.

Will she choose boyfriend Will or travelling salesman Ali Hakim, played by TV and musicals star Gary Wilmot?

Belinda Lang, best known for her role as Bill Porter in the 1990s BBC TV comedy 2point4 Children, plays Laurey’s fun-loving Aunt Eller.

Ashley said of Curly: “He’s the ultimate bachelor who doesn’t want to settle down. He wants to do his own thing and play games. He’s completely opposite to me.

“He is someone who is quite sure of himself. Everything he says to Laurey is an insult or a game. He’s a very fun character.”

He added: “I approach him with youth and energy. He leads the show. I have to drive the story and keep him as likeable as he can be.

“He has some dark moments with Jud and sings a song about death. He’s not an ordinary hero.”

The scene where the previously charming Curly taunts Jud in his room requires a complete change of pace for the actor.

Ashley said: “I’ve got to get the audience on my side before then and get them to see where he’s coming from.

“That scene with Jud is becoming my favourite scene. It comes from the middle of nowhere and it’s not what everyone thinks of with Oklahoma!.

“They think of the ‘fluffy’ songs that are very optimistic and positive. ”

Curly is a dream role for a musicals actor, said Ashley.

“I get the best songs and I am very, very lucky to have them, especially the first one, Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.

“It is an iconic song and a beautiful Rodgers and Hammerstein ballad. Every single song in the show is iconic. How can a singer not like that?”

Ashley has been working in musicals for 11 years and said theatre was his passion from being a child.

He came straight to Oklahoma! from the West End hit The Book of Mormon, performing in that show at night while rehearsing for the role of Curly during the day.

Ashley said he is looking forward to appearing in Sheffield during the tour.

“I know so much about the Crucible and never had the chance to get up there to see anything. I’ve heard amazing things.”

Oklahoma! is at the Lyceum from July 21 to August 1. Box office: at the Crucible, call 0114 249 6000 or go online at