Date 28th November 2012
Society Cambridge Operatic Society
Venue Cambridge Arts Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Leigh McDonald
Musical Director Lucas Elkin
Choreographer Danielle Phillips


Author: Julie Petrucci

For 52 years the musical Oliver! has held it’s 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’. The musical follows the adventures of the orphan boy Oliver as he escapes from the brutalities of the poorhouse and finds refuge with small time crook, Fagin, and his gang of pick-pocketing children! But then a chance encounter with the wealthy Mr Brownlow sets in motion a chain of events which will change Oliver’s life forever.

The large Cambridge Operatic cast was augmented for this production by members of the Young Actors Company and how well they fitted in. From the excellent opening number Food Glorious Food, when they set the stage in wonderful choreographed style, they acquitted themselves with great confidence and discipline, always fully aware of the action and completely part of it. At the performance I saw, 8-year old Alexander Boyd-Bench took on the role of Oliver. What a talented young actor, epitomizing everyone’s vision of Oliver Twist, with excellent stage presence and a splendid voice. Harry Gee as the Artful Dodger was another talented young actor, confident in his role and he too has a great voice.

We enjoyed a highly amusing scene between Widow Corney (played by the excellent Mandy Jeffery) and Mr Bumble (Myles Bradley – again everyone’s idea of this character in all its aspects). The scene in the undertakers was highly frenetic with William Hale and Lucy Cheke as Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, Zebb Dempster (Noah Claypole) and Amber Lickerish (Charlotte) all at full stretch in an endeavour to control Oliver. Great Fun. Scott Riley in the much coveted role of Fagin was much more humorous than is usually the case but I think it made the character somewhat likeable: here we had an actor who knew what he was about, a great performance. Another excellent performance came from Eileen Donnelly as Nancy. Beautiful voice, and great acting. The role of Bill Sykes is surprisingly small: he does not appear until Act Two but my goodness me Alan Hay certainly sent shivers down the spine. A chilling performance, which is, I hope, what he intended.

There was great support for the main principals too from David Bone (Mr Brownlow), Anna Murgatroyd (Mrs Bedwin) and Karen Turner (Bet): and if an actor relishes a cameo role then that of Dr Grimwig is a gift and Geoff Reed grabbed it with both hands, getting much humour from his few lines.

I hadn’t really taken on board the fact that there are only two or three big chorus numbers in the show as far as the adult chorus is concerned but needless to say they were all done exceedingly well. Similarly to the children in the opening number, not only were they called upon to sing and dance but also to shift and set scenery. All this was choreographed too and it made it very interesting to watch. The scenery was excellent, the lighting atmospheric (designed by Toby Larner) and compliment must be made to Carole Bye for the excellent costuming of this show.

An excellent orchestra under the direction of Lucas Elkin was never once too loud (and congratulations to Sean Rock for the excellent violin playing in Reviewing the Situation) added to the overall impression that this was a highly professional production thanks to the expert directorship of Leigh McDonald.

Thank you for inviting me and for your hospitality.