Oliver York Theatre Royal Review


Showing from 5-16 March 2013

Reviewed by Erica Bourn

If I were Reuben Lally's mum, my Mother's Day and every other day for at least the next 12 months would have been made by his touching performance in the title role as Oliver at the York Theatre Royal. Hard to believe it was his first ever stage performance, and when you know that he is just 8 years of age, it is even more remarkable. He had me hooked on his first pitch perfect note, and his rendition of 'Where is Love?' was truly special – had me reaching for a tissue, so can only imagine that the aforementioned Mrs Lally would need at least a bucket. A name to watch out for in my opinion.

Reuben's was by far not the only stand out performance of opening night on Tuesday. Also worthy of special mention in this production by York Light Opera Company, capably directed by Martyn Knight, were the pivotal roles of Fagin and Nancy, superbly performed by Rory Mulvihill and Alexa Chaplin respectively.

Now you will all be familiar with the story, which was adapted to stage by Lionel Bart from Charles Dickens 'Oliver Twist'. Set in Victorian London, Oliver Twist is an orphan in one of the workhouses. The story begins with all the children going down to have supper when Oliver utters the immortal words "Please Sir, I want some more". This opening gambit did not disappoint, and established an all important atmosphere.  

It is fair to say that this request for 'more' didn't go down too well with Mr Bumble, and so the story unfolds when Oliver is then sold to an undertaker, runs away, befriends the Artful Dodger who introduces him to Fagin and who in turn coaches him in the dubious art of pickpocketing.  As well as some slightly slapstick moments, notably 'I Shall Scream' with Mr Bumble and the buxom Widow Corney, some hard hitting ones as well with the abusive relationship between the usually street savvy and confident Nancy, under the hand of violent Bill Sykes and his sidekick Bullseye the dog.

The backdrop for all the action, recreating the various Dickensian London venues, was achieved by a two tiered permanent set, with flights of steps on either side of a long balcony. This left plenty of space for Knight's superb choreography, which was a visual treat, with the cherry on top provided by the fabulous costumes throughout.

Oliver! has some lavish show tunes. The popular score, which will have you singing/humming the songs for days after, includes all the well-known songs including: Food Glorious Food; Consider Yourself; You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two; I'd Do Anything; Oom Pah Pah; Who Will Buy and As Long As He Needs Me. After possibly a slightly shaky start, Phil Redding's orchestra seemed to find its rhythm, and adequately accompanied the vocal talents.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening and well worth a watch – best be quick though, run finishes on 16th March.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £6-£24

York Light Opera Company in Oliver!, Theatre Royal, York Until March 16, 7.30pm with Sat mats 2.30pm. Box office: (01904) 623568.

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