Oliver!

Date 12th February 2020
Society York Light Opera Company
Venue Theatre Royal, York
Type of Production Musical
Director Martyn Knight
Musical Director John Atkin
Choreographer Martyn Knight
Assistant Director Sue Hawksworth

Report

Author: Terry Harrison

After a season of pantomimes preceded by a modern show or two, it was good to revert to a tried and trusted favourite.  On the other hand, shows such as this can be so familiar as to allow a little complacency even on the part of those of us in the audience.  You know the story, you know the songs and so it’s easy to take your eye off the ball.

It was, after all, only seven years ago that this Society last performed the show and the ever-dependable Rory Mulvihill was back after an absence of six years to reprise his fine performance as Fagin. So too was Geoff Turner as Mr. Brownlow with Hannah Witcomb promoted from street vendor to be his Mrs. Bedwin and Rob Davies again part of the ensemble. Otherwise we saw a complete change of cast from 2013, with some excellent performances from all the principals.  Jonny Holbek, although a little less burly than described in one of the lines, made the most of the villainous Bill Sykes, aided by his faithful Bullseye, the Society having safely negotiated its way through regulations involving the use of animals on stage.  Since joining the Society in 2015, Emma-Louise Dickinson has always impressed in various roles and her performance as Nancy was no exception.  Her performance of “As long as he needs me” was a highlight of the evening.

Familiarity with a show removes the need to pay close attention to the plot, instead allowing closer examination of some other roles and those involved in the scene in the funeral parlour provide a good example. Jonathan Wells as Sowerberry, Stephen Wright as Noah, Zoe Blenkiron as Charlotte and Annabel Van Griethuysen as Mrs. Sowerberry made the most of their opportunity for some humour, the latter also displaying a lovely singing voice as the milkmaid in “Who will buy”.  With the death of Oliver’s mother at the very start and a murder near the end, there is a need for a few laughs elsewhere and I particularly enjoyed the contributions made by Pascha Turnbull as Widow Corney and Neil Wood as Mr. Bumble. A newcomer to this company, albeit an experienced performer, a little less rotund than many predecessors in the role, his was a memorable performance and the couple seized every opportunity to amuse us with their antics.

This is a show which depends on a lively group of youngsters and it was interesting to see girls amongst Fagin’s gang with words amended where necessary. They were led by a suitably demure Oliver (Alex Edmondson on the night I attended), in splendid voice in “Where is love?” and a contrastingly cheeky Dodger (Jack Hambleton).  

As ever here, costumes and scenery were first class as was the orchestra, including others of the class of 2013. Amongst them was Marcus Bousfield (violin) whose interludes between the verses of “Reviewing the situation” were enjoyable without detracting from Fagin’s delivery of his tour de force.

A visit to York and to a York Light production is always enjoyable, even with the river in flood. We look forward to their contribution to our forthcoming weekend at Bridlington with their version of “Side by Side by Sondheim”.