Oliver! is one of musical theatre’s most popular pieces and is a regular on the circuit. The Regent Theatre is hosting Stage Production Company’s rendition of the Charles Dickens classic turned musical by Lionel Bart.
The great news to report is that the amateur players gave performances that lived up to the professional stage on which they were performing.
Few in the theatre-going world will be unfamiliar with the storyline of how a workhouse orphan survives an encounter with a gang of juvenile thieves before making the ultimate journey from rags to riches. This familiarity with the scenario means that audiences expect almost stereotyped performances from the cast before them. In this respect, this production ticked all the boxes.
There was a cute Oliver with a great voice (Jayden Kay), a cheeky chappie with plenty of attitude as the Artful Dodger (Shaylan Wright), a convincing tart with a heart as Nancy (Kayleigh Ann Strong) and the menacing presence of the real baddie Bill Sikes (Sam Hands). All should be proud of the entertainment that they gave to the packed auditorium.
The most difficult part to cast is always Fagin. The actor playing this part has to tread the line between good and evil, attract sympathy and loathing in equal measure and also bring comedy and pathos to his character when in the spotlight. In all respects, Craig Armstrong did a fine job.
The principals were well supported by the other cast members and some lively dancing and singing from the adult and children’s ensembles with the youngster playing Nipper catching the eye on several occasions with his cheeky persona.
The big musical numbers were all satisfyingly well-produced. Great choreography was shown as Consider Yourself was a swirl of movement and Oom Pah Pah opened the Second Act in effervescent style as all of the naughtiness of a 19th Century alehouse was captured. I’d Do Anything and Who Will Buy are also very well staged and are a real pleasure on the eye.
Strong delivered As Long As He Needs Me with passion and expression and Armstrong made Reviewing The Situation his own as the fun fed its way to the very appreciative audience that included many family groups who lapped up the delights before them.
With an atmospheric set and lighting, fabulous costumes and a live orchestra there can be few not to have been thoroughly entertained
The show is not all sweetness and light and the darker side of the story is brought out. The Director does not shy away from adult sauciness when required and Nancy’s murder is rather brutally portrayed. However, this – and the couple of glitches that saw a microphone malfunction and a rather clunky final curtain – did not detract from the overall feel-good factor. The audience came to be entertained and the standing ovation was proof positive that they had been.
So, Who Will Buy tickets for the show? Hopefully all who love musical theatre. Because that is what this production of Oliver! provides. The Food, Glorious Food of a fantastic evening!
With a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 minutes with interval, Oliver! Continues until October 24th. For ticket information, contact atgtickets.com/stoke