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PLEASE SIR….can we have some more?!

Oliver! Grand Opera House Summer Youth Production definitely did leave us wanting more.


I am always a bit dubious when being asked to review a local amateur production of any major show, never mind one as iconic as Oliver! So I always go with low expectations.


This is where I am going to have to eat a big slice of humble pie because the last few amateur / local productions I have seen at the Grand Opera House have been phenomenally presented, and Oliver is no exception. The cast, chorus, youth tech crew and youth orchestra have worked so hard over the past two weeks to pull this show together for tonight's big opening night, every aspect from start to finish shows just how hard they have worked….but enough about me, my humble pie and Simon Cowell persona lets get down to the nitty-gritty of this review.


Charles Dickens published “Oliver Twist,” in 1839 as a novel that portrayed the world of poverty and crime in 19th-century London. “Oliver Twist” is a grim story of social injustice that became one of the author’s most popular books. More than 100 years later, English composer-writer Lionel Bart created the musical “Oliver!” (exclamation point but no “Twist in the title).


The curtain opens on the sinister interior of the workhouse with a bare dining table. The door opens, pale-dirty faced children file into the tables from every direction singing "Food, Glorious Food". Widow Corney, who runs the workhouse, and Mr Bumble, the parish beadle, enter to serve gruel to the boys. Alone amongst them Oliver takes the bowl to Bumble and asks, "Please, Sir, I want some more." Bumble is outraged. Oliver must go and so he walks Oliver through the streets of London singing "Boy For Sale." Oliver is sold to Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker. Alone, frightened and surrounded by coffins, Oliver sings, "Where Is Love?"


He runs away and meets the Artful Dodger who sings "Consider Yourself At Home". Oliver is taken to a hideout to meet Fagin and the apprentice thieves - they welcome Oliver with "You've Got To Pick a Pocket Or Two". Nancy, Bill Sykes girl, and Bet arrive and sing "It's A Fine Life". The next morning Oliver goes with the boys and is arrested by the police, not for picking pockets but simply for looking guilty.


In Act 2 Nancy sings "Oom-pah-pah". Fagin's boys tell of Oliver's arrest by the police but that, as he is innocent, he is now safe in the house of a kindly, rich gentleman. Fagin and Sykes despatch Nancy to get Oliver back. Meanwhile, Oliver has become a well-cared-for little lad. Seeing London street traders from his bedroom window he sings "Who Will Buy?", a plea that his good fortune will become permanent. However, outside the house, he is captured by Nancy and she returns him to Fagin. Fagin sings "Reviewing the Situation" and thinks of going straight.


Bumble and Mrs Corney, now married, discover that Oliver is the heir to a rich family and try to get him back. A regretful Nancy plans to return Oliver to his benefactor. She is fearful of Sykes yet sings, "As Long As He Needs Me". Sykes stalks and kills her, grabs Oliver and, after a chase, is shot dead. Oliver is restored to his benefactor who, as it turns out, is his own grandfather. Fagin, now minus the boys, home and money, reprises "Reviewing the Situation".


This cast makes an impressive attempt at taking on the well-known musical about the orphan boy who dared to ask for more. The ensemble of orphan children gives an energetic performance of the opening number, Food Glorious Food.


Eunan Doyle takes on the role of the imperious Mr Bumble with enthusiasm and doesn’t shy away from bellowing his disapproval at being asked for more gruel by the timorous Oliver. Doyle gives a favourable vocal performance of Boy for Sale as he takes to the streets to find a new owner for Oliver.

Mason McLoughlin does well in the role of Oliver showing vulnerability and innocence and gives a beautiful performance of Where is Love.

Conor Kelly gives a warm and friendly performance and is likeable in the role of Artful Dodger. He captures the cheeky side of the character well during Consider Yourself as Dodger takes Oliver to meet small-time crook Fagin.

Jackson Allen animated Fagin convinces with a fun and enthusiastic performance of You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two. Later, he is equally convincing in his Reviewing The Situation.

Caroline McMichael plays Nancy with zest, delivering great vocals in the energetic number Oom-Pah-Pah but it’s her performance of As Long as He Needs Me that really makes her stand out. She captures the emotion and turmoil of being married to the malicious, cruel crook Bill Sikes beautifully.

Robbie McMinn is convincing in the role of Bill Sykes, he delivers his lines with aggression. Sikes is the main antagonist and McMinn makes his performance believable which makes it easy to invest not only in his character but also in those around him.


In summary, individually, some of the cast offer incredibly strong performances; Collectively it works with the energy on stage drawing you into this well-known classic to the point where you are almost singing along out loud.


Oliver! Runs at the Grand Opera House runs until Saturday 22nd July , remaining tickets can be purchased at goh.co.uk


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