Presenting such a classic, cherished show as Oliver! is not as easy as you might expect. The challenge to strike a balance between doing justice to the nostalgic memories your audience may have of previous versions, against bringing something fresh and unique to the production is a very real one. And that is before you add in a large children’s company and a dog for good measure.
Fortunately, Tudor Musical Comedy Society’s production of Oliver! meets this challenge head on in the safe hands of Director Faye O’Leary, Musical Director David Easto and Choreographer Paula Lumsden. All the elements that keen fans would like to see are there – from the horse and carriage made by Fagin’s gang with umbrellas, to the gutsy Oom-Pah-Pah dancing – but the production also has a renewed modern energy that is often lacking in performances of this show, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The music is energetic and played at a slightly faster tempo in some numbers than you might expect, but it helps push the whole production along. The direction is slick and simple, but with lovely attention to little comic touches and delivery of phrases that just lift the whole story.
Leading the cast in the title role Nathan Wallace is the perfect Oliver Twist. He has a beautiful voice and displays excellent acting skills throughout, working equally well against the other children in the cast and as the only child in an adult-led scene. Lewis McLaren is a confident cheeky Artful Dodger who oozes stage presence and has excellent dance skills to lead the big production numbers. They are supported by a mixed team of young performers aged from 6 up who perform with energy and enthusiasm throughout.
Alistair Jolliffe is a delight as Fagin; spritely, sardonic and full of charisma, while Kerrie Davies is a strong Nancy who handles her tricky musical repertoire effortlessly. They are ably supported by a whole host of striking performances including Elliott Beech as a quintessential Mr Bumble, Mia Turley's expressive Bet and Paul Lumsden’s threatening Bill Sykes. Special mentions are also due to Julia Radcliffe, James Rowney, Nathan Rock and Stevie Morgan for making the most of the difficult Funeral Parlour scenes. Finally, a special award for most endearing cowardly performance is most definitely owed to Archie the Bulldog whose performance as Bullseye, though rather struck with stage fright, won over the audience in a heartbeat!
This is a delightful, punchy rendition of a classic. There are seats left across the run and Tudor deserve full houses!
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