With a cast of nearly fifty, there’s no shortage of oom-pah-pah in this dazzling production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! by Stage 84, The Yorkshire School of Performing Arts. The close collaboration of all departments in this show is evident from the outset and they have done a stunning job in bringing it all together.

The overall impression is spectacular.

The scenes are set with the ingenious use of old suitcases as versatile blocks that form table legs as well as bridge supports. They also blend completely with the costumes when being carried around. The company clearly has access to a vast wardrobe of the finest period outfits. The chorus in particular look spectacular when knee-jerking in Consider Yourself and swinging back and forth in Oom-Pah-Pah while the vendors have clothes to match their wares. The choreography in these big numbers is traditional and thrillingly executed. The company packs the stage and moves with precision in tightly interwoven formations.

The role of Oliver is shared between Lucas Allerton and James Slingsby on different days. The Oliver I saw was perfectly suited to the role, with a fine speaking voice, but had problems with tuning. Oscar Hazell must be the slimmest Mr Bumble ever, despite a little padding; he rather lacks the demeanour to fully exploit this role. He also has difficulty with top notes. Sam Dawson and Kathryn Moon work well together as Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry reciting a suitably sinister That's Your Funeral

Freddie Butterfield carves out a fine character for himself as the mischievous Dodger and has plenty of confidence leading Consider Yourself. Matt Boyle’s height and agility combined with shabby costume and ageing make-up successfully enable him to create a classic Fagin who relishes the fun of You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two but he's appropriately mournful in parts of Reviewing the Situation. The excessive hand movements are at times annoying, but he sticks with the characterisation throughout. It's left to Maddie Watkins/Emily Knight to bring tears to our eyes in As Long as He Needs Me in a moving and powerful performance as Nancy.

The use of a backing track instead of live band creates problems of synchronisation in some of the earlier numbers, particularly Food, Glorious Food; radio mics would benefit several soloists, but at the same time would accentuate missed notes and tuning issues. It’s a pity that for the most part soloists can't match the quality of the chorus. Despite those shortcomings the overall impression is spectacular. 

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist is brought to life in a dramatic, moving production of Lionel Bart’s ever-popular family musical. The score includes many well known songs such as Food, Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two and Where Is Love. Featuring big dance numbers and stirring vocals, this wonderful cast of 40 young people will leave you wanting more! Stage 84 makes a welcome return to the Fringe following previous successes including Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, Carousel, Little Shop of Horrors and other bestselling musicals. In aid of Barnardo's (216250/SC037605).

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