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Given the problem that Oliver (Zack Boutwood) had to pull out due to appendicitis a week before the show, and the part was taken by Lucy King at very short notice – I thought that all in all the show worked well, and Lucy certainly stepped up to the plate.

Well done Jackie Hensley to have the courage to make the decision (and also to try and find another Oliver – which proved to be impossible at such short notice), so that the show could go on!

The overture was very atmospheric, the band created a good sound and maintained the meaning and feel of the piece throughout.

Lighting is essential to the whole feel of Oliver, and Matt Stevens had created a good plot that gave us all that we needed to get the dreariness of the workhouse, and the brightness of the streets.  

Sound was mostly good and the set was very in keeping with the general look of the show, although there were some overlong blackouts.

The costumes were mostly good.  Props were good throughout, particularly in the workhouse and the funeral parlour.

Lucy played the part of Oliver really well, considering the short time she’d had to learn and rehearse it – I thought she was slightly hesitant at the start but really picked it up and did a good job.  I particularly liked her rendition of Where is Love.  

The children did well on the musical and choreographic front, I just needed a bit more animation in the first number, they seemed a little tentativethey were much more enthusiastic in the other numbers and as Fagin’s gang – but well done to them all.

It was nice to see Sarah Meers back on stage in what must be one of her favourite parts – a nicely rounded Nancy, with plenty of meaning and expression in As Long As He Needs Me.

My favourite portrayal in the show was Harry Rodgers as the Artful Dodger, he got the essence of the lad and maintained it all the time he was on stage – and also really bought into the music and the staging of the numbers.

Alan Purton reprised the part of Fagin –a real character part, and Alan always carries it off well.  Maybe a little lacking in conviction in some places this time.

Scott Newman was a frightening Bill Sikes, creating a good picture with Josh as Bullseye the dog.  I felt Scott was a little too slight in stature to really give the part the full menace, a bit of judicious padding would have helped – but he got the contrast with the other characters.

Kelly Jones was a bright and cheery Bet – this part can sometimes disappear into the background, but Kelly made sure she gave it plenty of go, nicely done.

The choreography was good, it suited the cast and the music – and I enjoyed that aspect very much.  Who Will Buy was exceptionally pleasing, both on the eye and the ear, with Julie Walton, Evie Wright and Jayda Moyse standing out both vocally and choreographically.

Richard Hines was a little too straight as Mr Bumble – I wanted to see his scheming, unpleasant side a little more, he was helped considerably by Jonika Kinchin as Widow Corney, who wasn’t afraid to throw herself into the part.

Daniel Farmer Patel was Noah Claypole, and whilst his projection was good, I felt he needed more characterisation, which would have then given more dimension to the funeral parlour group.  Gemma Smith was the charming if slightly dim Charlotte, quite nicely portrayed, with Calum Lucas as the downtrodden Mr Sowerberry and Pauline Field as his very sharp wife.

James Stanfield was Charley Bates, again a little more conviction would have made his portrayal more edgy, whilst Nigel Cain (Mr Brownlow), Sue Tingey (Mrs Bedwin) and Dicky Jones (Dr Grimwig), created a more gentle family group.

Oliver is always a charming piece with some good music, and the cast on the whole created some good characters.

Phoenix Players

OLIVER” 30th Oct 2014

@Luton Library Theatre

Director & Choreographer: Jackie Hensley

MD:  David Thomas & Jo Coombes


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