York Theatre Royal – until Saturday 22 February 2020
Reviewed by Marcus Richardson
Virtually everyone must know the story of Oliver Twist, the boy famous for saying “Please Sir, I want some more”. The character was written by the equally famous writer Charles Dickens. Some may know the musical ‘Oliver!’, which also involved a televised competition called ‘I’d do anything‘, to find the new Nancy for the West-End run. Now, although York is no West-End, it still has an impressive amount of theatrical happenings, York Light Opera Company (YLOP) is one of several of York’s Am-Dram groups and has bought its own adaptation to the York Theatre Royal stage. ‘Oliver!’ is one of the several shows that I’ve seen done by YLOP and is a large scale production.
With most shows that YLOP has a hand in, there is always a large cast with a wide variety of ages. With some past shows the stage felt too crowded at times, but luckily this wasn’t the case for this production, it only really hit me how large the cast was when it came to the curtain call. The cast has a fair few children in the ensemble, as well as the speaking roles of Oliver, The Artful Dodger, and Charlie.
The title character Oliver was played in this performance by Alex Edmondson, who alternates the role with Matthew Warry. Edmondson did an amazing job for such a young actor, especially with the amount songs and lines having to be learnt. The Artful Dodger, Jack Hambleton, sharing the role with Sam Piercy, impressed me a lot with his singing talent and with the song Consider Yourself, a true cheeky chappy. The adults in the cast are equally talented with Rory Mulvihill as Fagen, Emma-Louise Dickinson as Nancy, Neil Wood as Mr Bumble and Charlotte Johnson as Bet, being of note.
The whole cast did a wonderful job and bringing the Cockney energy to York. The singing one of the highlights of the show, and I really enjoyed “Who Will Buy” scene, with the four sellers singing in counterpoint, just wow! I’m always amazed at the talent that is around. All the bigger scenes worked well and suited the stage. Not all the cast had two legs, we had a Bull Terrier by the name of Boswell, he shares the role with Roy, playing Bill Sykes dog, Bullseye, definitely a crowd favourite. Make sure you buy the programme as there is a fabulous question and answer section with the two dogs.
My only issue, just a small one, and which I’ve had in the past, is the scene changes taking too long, and being a bit clunky. I would rather have a simpler set than a long wait, for the stage to be ready for the next scene. That being said, the set looked pretty good and was used well. Something that is always nice about these shows, is that they have a live orchestra. This make for a better experience, and the music didn’t drown out the vocals, which is definitely a plus.
It was great to see a packed theatre, and such a buzz. We were up in the gods, but in the front row, our recommendation is to try and not to be seated here as the leg room is at a minimum and a bar across the balcony, plus we had a monitor just to the side, impeding our view. During the interval we moved back several rows, and what a difference, plenty of leg room and a great view, would sit there again.
Oliver is a great family show, perfect for a half-term treat.