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  • Stacey Ireson

Theatre Review | “Oliver” @ Nottingham Arts Theatre

Disclaimer: Complimentary tickets were gifted for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own


Oliver, Nottingham Arts Theatre

Tuesday 21st February, 7.30pm


Last night, the girls and I were lucky enough to be invited to an impromptu trip to Nottingham Arts Theatre to watch the opening night of their latest production, "Oliver!".


"Oliver!" is the classic musical by Lionel Bart, which re-tells the famous story by Charles Dickens through a multitude of catchy and memorable tunes. The story (for the few people who don't already know) follows little orphan Oliver, as he navigates his way through the perils of Victorian London, from the Workhouse to the


I'll go into specifics in due course, but I wanted to start by saying that I was really impressed with the overall quality of the production, under the direction of Marie Rogers. Each and every member of the cast knew what they were trying to achieve and worked together beautifully to create a slick, cohesive performance. There was fantastic characterisation from the whole company, as well some some exceptional individual performances.


One of those exceptional performances came from Shan Bumbra as the amiably roguish gang-leader, Fagin. Shan's excellent comic timing and delivery made every moment he was on stage a highlight. Shan's Fagin was a man you couldn't help but love, even against your better judgement.


I have been privileged enough to share a stage with Abby Wells on a number of occasions, so I was expecting great things from her in the role of Nancy. I was not disappointed. Abby's version of Nancy was fierce, fun and full of emotion. Abby is always so professional in everything she does, with gorgeous vocals and dancing, and this was no different. Her rendition of As Long As He Needs me was particularly moving - I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.


There is an argument to be made that Bill Sykes is the most important character in the story. You need a villain who is truly sinister and threatening in order to bring a sense of peril and danger to the narrative.


John Gill gave us exactly the villain we needed with his performance. John was truly terrifying and fully embodied the character of Bill with every word and movement. As my daughter Poppy said, he was scary and we loved it!


A special mention also has to go to Ernie, who completely stole the show and the audience's hearts as Bill's canine sidekick, Bullseye. He did a sterling job in his theatrical debut and was so well-behaved. We especially enjoyed when he joined in with a few well-timed barks during the most dramatic moments (whether it was planned or not?). A star in the making!


Throughout the show, Oliver meets a host of other weird and wonderful characters who either seek to help or hinder his journey.


Bertie Black and Lindsay Jaycock were both brilliant as the delightfully repulsive Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney. The equally awful Sowerberry family was played by Pippa Ward, Sam Howard and Scarlett. All of these actors brought so much character to their respective roles and were so much fun to watch.


Olivia also gave a lovely performance as Nancy's friend, Bet. Her singing voice was particularly impressive, especially in her solos during "It's a Fine Life" and "Who Will Buy?"


Other notable performances came from Michael Coles, as the caring gentleman, Mr Brownlow and Emily Townsend as his housekeeper, Mrs Bedwin. Emily's solo in "Where Is Love (Reprise)" may have been brief, but was sung beautifully.


The Adult's ensemble worked superbly together to help flesh out the story and create the appropriate atmosphere, whether in the bustling market place during "Who Will Buy" or as rowdy pub patrons in "Oom-Pah-Pah".


Of course, the true stars of any production of "Oliver!" are the children, and this case was no exception.


The titular character of Oliver was played by Liam Brown, who gave a confident and polished performance throughout. He brought exactly the right level of innocence, naivety and gentleness to the character and his beautiful, clear singing voice worked magic with Oliver's big solo numbers.

Oliver.


Jamie was simply outstanding as the cheeky Artful Dodger, who takes Oliver under his wing and shows him all the tricks of the trade. Jamie's version of Dodger was filled with charisma and energy that was such a joy to watch. He grabbed my attention every single time he was on stage.


The rest of this children who formed Fagin's Gang and the Children's ensemble were equally as talented. Their energy and enthusiasm was obvious to all and they performed every moment to its fullest potential. There really wasn't one weak link. Every single child on that stage was giving it their all and deserves the very highest praise! Well done to you all!


I thought the dance routines, choreographed here by Amy Rogers-Gee, were pitched just right for the musical numbers. The technical level meant that all performers could execute the moves with precision and style, while still filling the stage with movement and helping to create excitement for the audience. I particularly enjoyed "Consider Yourself", which started small and just get building up to it's big finish.


The Musical Director for "Oliver!" was Kelvin Towse, who had obviously worked hard with the cast to produce a strong vocal sound, especially in moments such as the "Who Will Buy" quartet (which I believe was performed by Bianca Cavalcanti, Lindsay Jaycock, Barry Hobbs and Olivia.) I had forgotten just how many musical numbers there are in this show and they come thick and fast!


As I said at the very beginning, overall this was a really accomplished and good quality show. I really enjoyed watching all of the performances and the kids enjoyed every minute! They couldn't stop talking about their highlights for the whole car ride home.


"Oliver!" is being performed at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 25th February 2023, so you still have time to grab a ticket if you want to check out the show for yourself. Visit the Nottingham Arts Theatre website for more information.


Meanwhile, I'll be keeping my eyes out for other Nottingham Arts Theatre shows in the future!


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