‘Oliver!’ Lionel Bart
CLOGS Musical Theatre
Review of Thursday 17th March 2016 performance
Dee Way – NODA South West Region Representative, District 14
Thank you so much for inviting me to come to see your show in the Neeld Arts and Community Centre in Chippenham. This is a much-loved show, with its popular songs and great characters that were well portrayed in this production. The overture set the scene of the workhouse, with the uniformed helpers organising breakfast for the paupers. The staging was very good, with a curtained area as Fagin’s retreat, and an archway under a ‘bridge’ with a long flight of steps down onto the stage. It was very well used to suggest the London Bridge scene, but also gave the impression of Fagin’s lair being underground – a nice touch. The setting and removal the portable scenery was very well done. Good use was made of the stage projections each side for the more intimate scenes.
The Direction of the show by Debi Weaver was very well organised and thoughtful, with many details added to make the action seem realistic, such as Jessie playing ‘Bullseye’, the action in the coffin scene and the use of the ‘bridge’ and the stage right steps. There was a good amount of movement on the whole, enhancing the action of the story. The singing was good throughout the show, although occasionally the mics were not working well. The coffin scene was very effective.
The lighting was very atmospheric, despite the shadowed area down stage left. The sound was good and well balanced. The costumes and hairstyles were appropriate on the whole. However, the paupers’ costumes were rather bright, neat and clean, making it hard to believe that these children were not well cared for. However, I loved the internal pockets on Fagin’s coat and his gang’s costumes.
The music for the show was very well done under the direction of Joseph Church. The violin solo for Fagin’s song was beautifully played by Tom Budden, and the group gave a lively backing to all the songs. Just occasionally the music overpowered the singing and, in places, it was a little fast for the audience to appreciate.
The choreography for the big numbers must have been a challenge. I liked the way that everyone got a turn at the front of the stage during the dances. The movements were appropriate on the whole, although one number combined a lot of singing and energetic dance – how did you manage? The energy level was very high, adding vibrance to the show.
Oliver (Mackenzie Bardsley): This was very competent performance by a young lad with a great voice. His acting was a little tense at times, but he put the part across well.
Dodger (Emily Dirs): This was another competent performance, although personally I would have liked to see more strength and cheek in the character.
Charley (Harry Smith): This character was well played with good energy and volume. Well done!
Mr Bumble (Gary Ibbetson): This was a good performance in a tricky role. The relationship with Widow Corney was nicely portrayed. He could have been a little more powerful in the opening scene but the later (married man) sections were well done.
Widow Corney (Nicola Aston): I liked this character a lot for her changes of mood and expressive portrayal of exactly how she felt. Well done!
Mr Sowerbury (Paul Whelehan): The characterisation here was very well done and believable. The relationship to Mr Bumble was well portrayed and the later scene over the locket was good.
Mrs Sowerbury (Lucy Davidson-Smith): This was a nice, well played cameo role. I think the character could have been built up a little, to match her husband more, but that is the director’s choice.
Charlotte (Anna Dirs): This character was very well portrayed. Her first entry was amazing, with wonderful body language! A lovely cameo role – well done!
Fagan (Chris Howlett): This part was so well cast. He looked right, sounded right, moved right and developed the character really well. An excellent portrayal throughout.
Nancy (Jennie Woloschuk): This character was well portrayed, with characteristic bustle and lovely songs. She could have been more scared of Bill Sikes, perhaps more cowering towards the end as she sees the danger come, but a well-rounded performance overall.
Bill Sikes (David Coath): This part was very well cast, again, as his height alone made him threatening! The role was very well played, the movement was good and slow, but then suddenly fast at times, catching the audience out. The delivery of the lines was very fitting – scary people don’t need to be loud, after all. Well done!
Mr Brownlow (David Powell): This part was well portrayed as a well off but sad man. Perhaps more could have been made of his seeing a likeness between Oliver and his daughter, but this was a quiet performance and very believable.
Dr Grimwig (Ian Holmes): I liked the little touches added here to portray the doctor checking Oliver over. This cameo role was well done and added humour to this otherwise rather staid scene.
Mrs Bedwin (Anne Holmes): This is a tricky cameo role as the housekeeper to Mr Brownlow. This part was well played, with the reprise of ‘Where is love?’ nicely sung to Oliver. However, some lines suggested she was also bereft of love, an interpretation that was a little lost here.
The Chorus performed really well throughout, being onstage as general public, pickpockets, pub drinkers and concerned people. I loved the ‘Oompahpah’ scene with its drunkenness and debauchery.
This was a most enjoyable evening of entertainment and I look forward to hopefully seeing more of your productions in the future.
Please note that these comments can only relate to the show seen and form the personal views of the representative.