Oliver!

Date 4th April 2019
Society Maidstone Amateur Operatic Society
Venue Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Type of Production Musical
Director Tony Cassidy
Musical Director John Mills
Choreographer Katy Russel

Report

Author: Gordon Harris

Oliver! opened in the West End in1960 and I was one of those who saw this production. Lionel Bart was the Lloyd Webber of the day. Since then it’s had several revivals and tours. MAOS' production was directed by Tony Cassidy. Tony kept this very close to the original and it hasn’t dated at all, his professionalism at moving a large cast,  along with choreographer Katy Russel gave us a good, well balanced show. John Mills' musical direction and orchestra is superb and the right balance, perfect! 

Set: with 12 scene changes, this was always going to be difficult at the Hazlitt, because of restricted room backstage, but this workable set by SA events and MAOS suited the stage. Sound was good. Lighting: Dave Beeken’s lighting was adequate albeit a little dark in places. Stage Management: headed by John Carden, set changes were slow in places but nothing too drastic…well done. Costumes: by Stage Costume Dartford, were very colorful and in period.

I always find it difficult when societies have two sets of children; it’s not fair for me to review them, as I can only see one set. Jake Frankel as Oliver led the Blue team and along with Jack Loft as Dodger gave the “gang” of mainly girls, a good all round sound, they looked as if they were enjoying themselves. I feel sure that Evan Barrow and Mackenzie Skinner are doing the same with the Red team.

Other than Fagin, I always think of Oliver as a show of pairs. Barry Reynolds as Mr Bumble and Julie Argent as Widow Corney gave us perfect timing and had us tittering at their antics. Mr and Mrs Sowerberry (John Endicot and Kathryn Norman) gave us maturity and class as the Sowerberrys, both in acting and singing. Nancy (Heather Cheesman) and David Waller were teamed well and they gave us solid performances. I particularly liked ‘As long as he needs me’ and ‘My name’. Dave Rowe’s Fagin is a master class in how to get everything right in characterisation, acting,  singing, costume  and props. His performance was outstanding, using all the stage at times. ‘Reviewing the situation’  was perfectly directed. 

Other minor roles;  Bet - Ashley Smith,  Mrs Bedwin - Alison Gauld, Noah Claypole - Harris Skinner, Charlotte - Ella Faulkner, Old Sally - Anna Honeyset (perfect last breaths), Mr Brownlow - Mike Sutton, Dr Grimwig - Mike Codling, along with a very beautifully sung ‘Who will buy’ by Susan Creasy - Rose seller, Christina Whitehead - Strawberry seller, Grace Nissen - Milkmaid and Simon Patient as the Knife Grinder. This all added up to a well directed Oliver by MAOS. I do have one gripe: high fives were not done in the 1830’s!