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“OLIVER”


The overture is always dramatic and was used to set the scene with Oliver’s mother giving Old Sally her locket, and then the team of youngsters came on stage with purpose and gave us a rousing Food, Glorious Food.  


The team the night I was there was Pears, but I asked a colleague for his view on the Apples team, and we came to the conclusion that they were very well drilled and performed enthusiastically what they had been asked to do.   We both thought the youngsters were the stars of the show.

Overall an enjoyable production, but some points needed attention, that would have helped to make it a stand out production.


The set always works well for a larger stage – however there were a lot of small technical issues, particularly with the Undertakers truck. I would have also tried to confine Mr Bumble and Widow Corney to the trolley for their room, as it looked strange with them using the full stage and the trolley right at the side of stage left.  


Small points, but things which are noticed and perhaps spoil an otherwise good production.

There were some first-class lighting effects, particularly in Fagin’s den, which created a good atmosphere.  There were however a couple of places where the front side stage were not lit sufficiently, so people got lost – this was very noticeable in the opening number.


The orchestra had an excellent sound, and the balance between stage and pit was good throughout – not easy to achieve at the Arena!  There was a super build up to the reprise of Reviewing the Situation.


It seems as if both Oliver’s - Thomas Wilkins (who I saw) and Alexander van Weezel - had a good understanding of the role, with Alexander being slightly stronger on the drama side, and Thomas stronger on the musical side.  But both coped well with the role.  I felt that Tom lost a little momentum towards the end, which affected his energy.  Alexander was assured and acted well, crystal clear diction in book and song.


One directorial decision I did not like, was that Oliver sang Where is Love standing facing the audience, and finished it behind the counter – it somehow detracted from a good interpretation from both boys, and lost some of its poignancy, which was a shame.  


The Artful Dodger, played by Lewis Elliott and Archie Stevens both won the audience over from their first entrance, and were very much the cheeky chappies, combining the comedy, singing and acting skills required.


I liked the setting of Consider Yourself, and it was well-sung by the ensemble with lots of energy.

I was very impressed with Who Will Buy – it was the first time I have heard the separation between the different parts so marked – but it all fused beautifully, which I really enjoyed, so well done to Rachael Timberlake (and her understudy), Sophie Turner, Sam Keyte and Michael Readman – also the first time I have heard a really strong Knife Grinder!


So now to the cast.  Emma Stratton gave us an emotive Nancy, with heartfelt renditions of As Long as He Needs Me – creating real feeling so that we bought into her confusion over her feelings for Bill, and appreciated the slightly different to the norm phrasing.  A strong and evocative portrayal.

I liked Tony Bradbourn as Mr Bumble and Debby Connor as Widow Corney – some good comedy, although perhaps a little too OTT at times, I feel it would have been more marked if the action had been confined to a smaller area of the stage.


I felt that Oliver was too easily caught in the workhouse, the set lent itself to a more frenzied and interesting chase.  Also in the Undertakers, I needed Oliver to be more forceful with Noah – the fight didn’t seem commensurate with the punishment!


I thought the pairing of Charlie Harden and Susan Akroyd as Mr & Mrs Sowerberry was a good one – Charlie was very obsequious and creepy, I really liked what he did with the part, whilst Susan was fiery with her husband, but charming with Mr Bumble – some nice nuances.


Sophie Turner was a good Charlotte – a good interpretation, with Zodiak Willoughby-O’Neill as Noah, a nice little part, however I needed more provocation from him towards Oliver, as the difference between the way he spoke to Charlotte and how he spoke to Oliver was not marked enough.  

Howard Salinger certainly looked and moved the part of Fagin well, showing good vocal quality in his numbers, but I wanted a little more sleaziness and cautiousness to complete the character.


Max Rowntree and Samuel Pesez both created a good character as Charlie Bates.


Sarah Parkins was a charming Bet, she sang well and made the most of the part, which sometimes fades into insignificance against a strong Nancy, but Sarah held her own and I enjoyed her performance.


I liked the household duo of George Edkins as Mr Brownlow and Jackie Pulford as  Mrs Bedwin, both created very sympathetic characters, whilst again not fading into the background, and I liked Clive Webb as Dr Grimwig.  George gave Mr Brownlow understanding with a hint of steel.  The relationship between Oliver and Mrs Bedwin was appealing and Jackie gave her both understanding and charm.

Jamie Ross certainly looked the part as Bill Sykes, but whilst there were some evil moments, I really wanted him to be more malicious, to create that much needed contrast and dimension between him and Fagin.


A mention for Tucker, who appeared to behave very well as Bullseye!

So all in all a good production, with some excellent moments, that made it enjoyable to watch.







St. Albans Operatic Society

OLIVER” review date: 1st May 2015

at Alban Arena, St Albans

Director: Rob Milner    MD: Philip Joslin

Choreographer: Joyce Smith

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