It was in June 1960 that the Lionel Bart’s Oliver! took to the stage for the very first time and the show has gone on to achieve great things in the ensuing fifty plus years. It has always been a favourite with youth theatre companies and am drams and has appeared in a shortened version at previous fringes.
Local Company Captivate Drama has chosen to perform Oliver in repertory with the Les Miserables Schools Edition as the culmination to their summer performance school and what a treat this production really is!
The show has been fully staged and comes in at around 2 hours and 20 minutes including an interval so no one is short changed. Using a multi layered set allows Sally Lyall (the director) to weave the scenes together utilizing every member of a large ensemble allowing them to sparkle in their moment under the bright lights.
In the lead role of Oliver, Murray Cheyne (who will share the role) brought a real sense of vulnerability to the character and whilst there was a slightly shaky moment at the start owing to some microphone issues, this was soon overcome. Aiden Cross as Dodger (again sharing the role) imbued the role with doses of cheekiness and really came into his own especially in the second act.
The kids in the show are ably supported by an older cast performing the adult characters, Max Reid as Mr Bumble gave the character a Lancashire twist and removes any references to Harry Secombe's better known portrayal. Wowing the audience with her portrayal of Nancy is Emma Harley whose voice soared around the theatre during the highlight that is ‘as long as he needs me’. The pivotal role of Fagin is given a unique interpretation thanks to Alistair Robertson who shone despite a wardrobe problem. Ross Cockburn as Bill Sykes brings such heartless brutishness to the role so as to have the younger members of the audience shaking slightly in their seats.
What really pushes this production above others is the inclusion of a 21 strong orchestra,the only production in the fringe to boast such a sizable one, under the baton of musical director Tommie Travers. Special mention must go to Aden Mazur the orchestra’s lead violinist for his delicate and inspiring playing during the gypsy violin sequence in the song ‘Reviewing the Situation’.
All the essential elements of classy musical theatre are present in this production; tight direction, excellent performances, lush lighting combined with perfect costumes and that large orchestra gives the fringe a little taste of the West End.
This is one production which ensures the audience leaves entertained and goes home humming the words ‘for after some consideration, we can state!’ A fringe winner!