12th May 2015
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Type of Production
Author: Julie Petrucci
For over fifty years the musical Oliver! has held its place as one of the most performed by musical societies and most-loved by audiences. Based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, and set amongst the harsh and poverty stricken backdrop of Victorian London, the award winning score features many well-loved songs such as ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘Where is Love’ and ‘As Long as He Needs Me’. I am sure there is no need for me to remind you of the story.
The scenery was very good and used imaginatively. I like the small cut-away pieces brought on to depict rooms which worked well and looked good augmented by the excellent furniture and props. However, in the opening scene a ‘God Is Love” banner was flown in which, from the dress circle, obscured our view of Mr Bumble and Widow Corney up on the ‘bridge’. We could hear them but only saw Mr Bumble’s face through one of the letters on the banner. Maybe it would be an idea for someone to sit in the dress circle during the technical/dress run to spot such problems.
The lighting was suitably atmospheric; having thought there was a blip once or twice, as the same thing happened during several musical numbers, maybe it was intentional. Sound, costumes, hair and make-up were all fine and contributed all the right elements to the production.
From the excellent opening number Food Glorious Food, the young members of the cast, many of whom attend local stage schools, acquitted themselves with confidence and discipline, always fully aware of the action and completely part of it. The opening number and those in Fagin’s hideout were all done exceedingly well.
There are only two or three big chorus numbers in the show as far as the adult chorus is concerned but they were all done well albeit it extremely loudly. Their obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm however was beyond reproach as they sang and competently executed Heather Couch/Louise Travis’ choreography.
At the performance I saw, Jago Cooper took on the role of Oliver. A vocally talented young actor with excellent stage presence coupled with beautiful diction. Andrew Dougherty as the Artful Dodger, another talented young man, was confident in his role and he too has a first rate voice.
We enjoyed a highly amusing scene between Widow Corney (played by the excellent Mandy Morrish) and Mr Bumble (Benjamin Hill – everyone’s idea of this character in all its aspects). The scene in the undertakers was frenetic with Greg Elvin and Jackie Strahm as Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, Ryan Ingram (Noah Claypole) and Laura Barnard (Charlotte) all at full volume in their endeavour to control Oliver.
Jeremy Warbrick in the much coveted role of Fagin created a much gentler and less cunning character than is usually the case - poles apart from the Ron Moody/Fagin caricature normally seen. He showed some pretty nifty footwork in Pick a Pocket or Two and had an interesting take on Reviewing the Situation which was much more sentimental and melancholy than I have previously seen it done.
Emma Ward gave a performance of high-quality as Nancy. Lots of stage presence and a great voice. Her rendering of As Long as he Needs Me was lovely. I was somewhat surprised that one of Nancy’s big numbers (Oom Pah Pah) was distributed between the hostesses of ‘Three Cripples’, but it worked.
The role of Bill Sikes is surprisingly small: he does not appear until Act Two but Callum Limer certainly created a believably brutish character.
There was good support for the main principals too from company stalwart Colin Musgrove as Mr Brownlow, Fiona Barker (Mrs Bedwin), Emma Rutherford (Bet) and young Matthew Barber as Charley. These small roles are crucial to the plot and it is important they are done well which in this case all were. Full marks too, to Lola as Bullseye - obviously a star in the making.
The excellent musicians under the baton of Musical Director Simon Pearce were never once too loud and added to the overall enjoyment of this production which was once again under the expert directorship of Louise Travis and her assistant Lou Petch.
This most favourite of musicals was enjoyed by a capacity first-night audience who showed their full appreciation at the curtain call and who could ask for more? - except Oliver of course.