Oliver! Review

Posted: 14th March 2024

Jam packed with boisterous and poignant songs, mischievous urchins, loveable rogues and more than a touch of menace, the RGS production of Lionel Bart’s much-loved musical Oliver! transported audiences to the world of Oliver Twist, based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel.  The moody set vividly invoked the sense of Victorian London street life as well as the various indoor settings, including the dingy reality of the grim Victorian workhouse.  The sharp choreography made the very most of all the space, nooks and crannies, while the lighting, sound effects and vibrant costumes immersed the audience in the zeitgeist of the time.  From the sombre, atmospheric opening as the orphans entered, the pace and energy built – with the talented live orchestra packing plenty of punch –  before shifting into top gear for the fabulous toe-tapping opening number Food, Glorious Food.  And the stage was set, quite literally, for an evening of high-energy musical theatre.

Theo Patel and Jamal Karim shared the role of Oliver: both perfectly captured the vulnerable innocence and cheeky, charismatic street-urchin feel of the young orphan Oliver.  To have two such strong performers in the lead role was notable.  Lorcan Read was superb as Fagin, showing the real human side of the cruel and loathsome character, while Fleur Crossey as Nancy gave a truly heart-wrenching and emotional performance throughout.  Orlando Meadowcroft was suitably flamboyant and effervescent as the street-wise Artful Dodger.  Will Sanders as the chillingly menacing Bill Sikes, a figure oozing with evil, provided a powerful foil to the other characters, while light relief and lovely touches of humour came from Harry Simmons as Mr Bumble, and strong, convincing performances, in particular, from Adrian Groenewald as Mr Sowerberry and Milo Findji as Mr Brownlow.  The various ensembles, to the great credit of the young actors who were on stage for much of the time, brought appropriate colour, humour and cheeky mischief to the proceedings: endearing and engaging in equal measure throughout.

The success of any production of Oliver! is the quality of the musical performances, both on and off stage, and these were delivered with just the right amount of gusto or sensitivity, emotion or feel-good energy and were received to rapturous applause from the appreciative audience: the rousing verve of Consider Yourself, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two, and Oom-Pah-Pah; not to mention the emotive Where is Love?, I’d Do Anything, Reviewing the Situation and As Long as He Needs Me.  Toe-tapping, uplifting, and entertaining throughout, from start to finish the whole production and rags-to-riches story were quite simply food, glorious food, for the soul.

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