Romiley Operatic Society
Director: Michael Jones-McCaw
Musical Director: Claire Sweeney
Choreography: Tracy Harper
What is it about a plot centring around workhouse boy sold into effective slavery, but who then runs away from his owners, and then joins an East End gang and witnesses a murder that makes it an enjoyable musical? Perhaps it is the wonderful storytelling of its creator, Charles Dickens coupled with the music and lyrics of Lionel Bart. It doesn’t matter how gloomy the historical setting is, the audience is soon on a feel-good journey. And in this production, it was due to the twenty plus cast of children and the wonderful characters they created that are now part of theatres hall of fame.
To allow the many scenes to be created, a composite set from UK Production filled the stage. Charade’s Theatrical Costumes added the colour. All the characters created were mirrored the original “Boz” line drawings. The lighting and sound plots were that all important ingredient to the overall concept.
Due to the available performing space the director had to keep a tight rein on the unfolding dramatic events. This paid off and the story was told without a hitch. The company was musically well rehearsed and in particular. Fagin’s gang (group “A” when I attended) and the Workhouse boys especially. The choreography was inventive and refreshingly different. Every step by the company and accomplished dancers was precisely delivered.
As mentioned, the youth ensemble moved/danced acted and sang with conviction. They took centre stage when needed creating memorable scenes. The adult ensemble supported them with strong vocals and dramatic intervention.
In the title role, Alfie Hall gave a well-managed portrayal of the angelic Oliver. His rendition of “Where Is Love” was well received.
The workhouse is run by Mr Bumble, aided by the Widow Corney. Lisa Kay is a fine character actress and singer who created a comely and humorous Mistress Corney. Lisa had a good foil in Mathew Rigby, as Mr Bumble. From the cruelty of workhouse Oliver is sold on to the undertakers, Mr and Mrs Sowerberry (Sam Bolton and Selina Adams).
At Oliver’s Grandfather’s household we met Mr Brownlow, Mrs Bedwin and Dr “yes, yes, yes” Grimwig. All three were all played to the full giving depth to the ongoing turmoil of the young boy’s life.
Before the happy ever after curtain can fall there is the matter of murder. The victim is Nancy, the partner of the scary, Bill Sykes. Lucy Roberts acquitted herself well as the doomed heroine. Ben Vaughan, in the character of Nancy’s lover and murderer, created the malevolence of Bill Sykes in the song, the “What’s My Name?”.
Nancy and Bill were are part of Victorian London’s criminal world as is Fagin and his young troupe of villains lead by Jack Dawkins. Connor Wyse had the audience in the palm of his hand right from his first high-stepping entrance, as the Artful Dodger. He was ably supported by the animated Harry Willbourn, as Charlie Bates. They were under the tutelage of the dastardly gang leader of pickpockets, Fagin. This character has been kept as near to Dickens’s description of the criminal, from the Alex Guinness film portrayal, to Ron Moody’s stage presentation. It was Robert Lindsay who gave a different interpretation of the “avaricious old skeleton” - thank goodness. Gary Jones-McCaw was not influenced by past characterisations. Hhe delighted us all with his clever elfin-like interpretation of Fagin. He reviewed and delivered the situation!
This revival of “Oliver!” was a Dickins of a joyous evening of family entertainment, an evening well spent at the theatre.