A review of the situation

Oliver!

Malvern Theatres Young Company

*****

HISTORIC child abuse is getting a great deal of attention at the moment and Dickens presents us with a specific kind in one of his most famous novels – Oliver Twist.

As an orphaned child, Oliver is brought up in the workhouse in squalor and deprivation. His famous plea for a second helping of gruel brings about his ejection and subsequent entanglement with Fagin and his pickpockets on the streets of London, as he seeks love and acceptance in a harsh and broken world.

Lionel Bart’s musical interprets the story with some wonderful and well-known songs that have become part of our folk culture, and the interpretation by the Malvern Theatres Young Company this week is a resounding success.

The involvement of some professionals in key production roles, developing the talents of some gifted children and young people, makes for a polished production with bags of energy and life. The show was received to raptOliverurous applause and is a great evening’s entertainment.

There is a large cast and this brings a richness to the more public scenes. The choreography is excellent and matches the abilities of a varied cast with the vivacity of the music. The design of the show is brilliant too. The projections on the cyclorama upstage create an effective atmosphere and a sense of geographical and physical setting.

Nicholas Wilson (Oliver) with Max Morgan (Dodger) and Grace Harris (Nancy) with Lewis Allan (Bill Sykes) bringing up the rear

The dramatic scene at midnight on the bridge has a particularly powerful impact towards the climax of the story. The lighting designer played a key role in this aspect of the show too.

The gifted and versatile small orchestra produced beautiful sounds to support the drama: the sensitivity of the musicians in numbers like Nancy’s As long as he needs me and Fagin’s I’m reviewing the situation was brilliant.

In terms of acting, Jacob Buckley as Fagin is an outstanding talent. He achieved the comedy with some excellent timing and clarity of delivery. He sang well too. For singing Grace Harris as Nancy was particularly powerful and effective. In her red dress and with her lovely voice she achieved real pathos at key moments. Nicholas Wilson plays a very endearing Oliver, he too has a lovely voice and most of his singing was top notch. These young talents were very well supported by strong performances by Lewis Allan as the sinister Bill Sykes, Max Morgan as The Artful Dodger and Ben Mowbray as Sowerbury. Around these standout performers the rest of the players and ensemble players play a vital and successful role.

This excellent production stands in a strong tradition of great productions from this company, one that is a training ground for wonderfully talented young players, and this all suggests that the future of musical theatre in the nation is well assured. If you can get tickets, this is a very entertaining evening for all, leaving one hoping for an extra encore! To 22-08-15

Timothy Crow

19-08-15 

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