Oliver! – Buxton Opera House

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Buxton Opera House has chosen Oliver! as its second production to showcase the young talent of Buxton and the High Peak. From the evidence of the press night the dramatic future of the area is in safe hands.

Oliver! first saw the light of day in 1960 when Lionel Bart adapted the Charles Dickens tale for the stage. A smash box office hit on both Broadway and the West End it was made into a much-loved film in 1968 and is reportedly one of the most chosen productions by amateur companies and schools.

So, it takes a masterly directorial touch to make any production of Oliver! to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately for the packed Opera House – there was barely a seat left unfilled – this is exactly what this production received from Director Paul Kerryson and his Choreographer Deborah Kate Norris. Excellent casting and coaching were matched by some beautiful staging. The simple but highly effective set was filled with colour and movement and the cast members – whether playing a lead or as part of the ensemble – were able to pass on the obvious thrill and pleasure they had from appearing on this famous stage to a highly appreciative audience.

Two highlights for this particular reviewer were the scenes involving the well-known songs Consider Yourself and I’d Do Anything which both involved intricate choreography and movement across the stage allied to highly enjoyable vocal performances. The Who Will Buy sequence was also beautifully presented.

The two juvenile leads of Oliver and The Artful Dodger were played in this performance by Alfie Hall and Henry Hodgkinson respectively although they are sharing the parts with Lucas Shirtcliffe and Ollie Spittlehouse-Wain. Alfie played his part with just the right level of innocence and naivete and had the piping voice often associated with Oliver while Henry was confident from the start with a strong singing voice. He displayed the impish cockiness demanded by the role to perfection.

Lucas Bailey was excellent in his role of Fagin and produced a superb rendition of Reviewing the Situation; Stuart Bowden played the part of Bill Sikes with the menace of someone you really wouldn’t want to meet on a foggy night in London town; and Natalie Coverley stole the show. Her vocals brought a brilliant poignancy to As Long as He Needs Me while she attacked her role with energy and was a very believable character.

There was great support from the rest of the cast. Tavis Hill gave Mr Bumble the right degree of pomposity with Maria Dunford giving his partner Widow Corney the appropriate coquettishness while Keisha Golden was a Mrs Soweberry that no-one would want to work for – especially an orphan.

Above all this production was played with an infectious enthusiasm by all who took part in it. The greatest compliment that could be paid is that this production would compare very favourably to that of a professional company.

So, if you are still reviewing the situation about attending then you should hurry to get a ticket even if it means forgoing food glorious food or you have to pick a pocket or two (not literally!!!) for the small cost. Where Is Love? It’s at the Opera House in Buxton.

The performance lasts for approximately two hours and thirty minutes including interval and runs from June 5th to 9th. Contact 01298 72190 or buxtonoperahouse.org.uk

Photo credits to David J King