16/06/09 - 20/06/09
Venue: Clwyd Theatr CymruSETTING: London, 1850.
The curtain opens with Oliver Twist working at an orphanage. The boys sing "Food, Glorious Food" as they wait for supper. They are all hungry after their one cup of gruel and Oliver asks for more.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble sing "Oliver!", and Oliver is a "Boy For Sale" after being upset by his impudence. Oliver is bought by Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker. Saved from one enemy in Mr. Bumble, Oliver's new enemy is Noah Claypole. A fight between them leads to Oliver being locked up as he sings the tender "Where Is Love". Oliver runs away where he soon meets the Artful Dodger who sings "Consider Yourself ". He is introduced to Fagin and his boys and is taught that "You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two".
Fagin sneaks out late in the evening to meet Bill Sikes at The Three Cripples. Despite the obvious drawbacks of living in the slum, Nancy assures us that "It's A Fine Life". The following morning Nancy and Bet arrives and Oliver gets to know them during the song "I'd Do Anything", after which Fagin sends the boys out on the streets hoping that they'll "Be Back Soon". Well, they aren't, at least not Oliver. He's been arrested for looking guilty when Dodger stole a wallet.
But Oliver is a lucky kid; he's proved innocent and the old man who got robbed, Mr. Brownlow, takes him home with him. In the morning the whole street joins Oliver in the question of "Who Will Buy?". But plans are being made for Oliver's reunion with his old friends. Sikes efficiently persuades Nancy to help him with the task, rending Nancy singing "As Long As He Needs Me". Fagin is "Reviewing The Situation", thinking about changing his way of life. Nancy shortly realises that Oliver's life is in danger as long as he stays with the thieves and she contacts Mr. Brownlow, who in the meantime has found out that Oliver is the son of his long lost niece.
She promises she'll take Oliver to him, and she almost succeeds, diverting Sikes attention with the little ditty "Oom Pah Pah". When Sikes figures out what's going on, he kills Nancy. In desperation he takes Oliver with him, trying to escape over the roofs, but is killed himself by a police officer.
Fagin and the Dodger review the situation once again and decide that together they might be able to retire respectable. Oliver finally finds his real family.
Oliver - Calum Craine
Fagin - Tony Prince
Dodger - Dominic Melluish
Nancy - Jane Chance
Sikes - Mike Kelsall
Mr. Bumble - Kevin Keegan
Widow Corney - Jo Lloyd
Mr. Sowerberry - Stephen Davies
Mrs Sowerberry - Helen Belton
Mr. Brownlow - Mike Heathcote
Bet - Amy Tennant
Charlotte - Jo Randles
Noah Claypole - Lee Randle
Mrs. Bedwin - Jenny Jackson
Dr. Grimwig - Eric Jones
Old Sally - Pat Pearce
OIiver Understudy - Henry Bowles
Dodger Understudy - Connor McGovern-Scott
Production teamDirector: Peter Swingler
Musical Director: Simon Phillips
Choreographer: Noella Grace
Stage Manager: Nick Roberts
DSM: Andrew Roberts
Production Coordinator: Gail Young
Boys' Head Chaperone: Janice Craine
Chaperone Admin: Julie Jones
Lighting: Ian Jones
Sound: Richard Stokes
Wardrobe: Barbara Davies
Props: Sue Edwards with Sheila Roberts
Makeup Coordinator: Sally Dillon
Marketing: Ken Williams/Chrissie Clegg
FROM THE WREXHAM LEADERSTRANGE as it may seem, it is unusual to begin a review of a musical with fulsome praise for the music; but that is exactly how I feel about Tip Top Productions' "Oliver!", at Clwyd Theatr Cymru last week.
Musical director Simon Phillips gathered a 12-piece orchestra of outstanding quality and never once did it overwhelm the singers; the violin solos in Fagin's "Reviewing the Situation" were dazzling. The chorus singing, particularly the harmonies were a pleasure. The opening number "Food, Glorious Food" was a visual treat as about 30 boys sang their hearts out to give the show a real cracker of a start.
In Peter Swingler's production he manages to squeeze out so much comedy that I am sure audiences went home wondering why they had never realised that Mr Bumble (Kevin Keegan) and Widow Corney (Joanne Lloyd) were such joyous cameo roles. Their rendition of "I Shall Scream" had everyone around me in fits of laughter.
On the opening night the undertakers, Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, experienced a real-life crisis as Helen Belton, as the wife, was suddenly admitted to hospital and in at the last minute Kate Salmon gave a performance that looked perfectly natural and rehearsed.
"Oliver!" needs an excellent young boy in the title role; and Tip Top excelled themselves with the casting of nine-year-old Calum Craine; a performance of depth from such a young actor. His "Where is Love" had the audience moved to tears and he developed his character throughout the show. A fine performance this.
Playing opposite him was 12-year-old Dominic Melluish who gave a typical cheeky Artful Dodger. He has an outstanding singing voice, his personality is big but sometimes his words were not always clear. Nevertheless he is one to look out for in the future.
Fagin should be the key member of the show and in Tony Prince Tip Top was not let down.
This Fagin, with his rich baritone voice; his swift scampering across the stage; fingers that never stopped meddling plus a neat line in comedy, made it a performance I will remember for some time.
Nancy, played by Tip Top newcomer Jane Chance, managed to hold the audience in the palm of her hand. Not only is she an actress of skill, her beautiful alto voice sent shivers during "As Long As He Needs Me".
For other reasons Bill Sykes (Mike Kelsall) was a success as the villainous murderer. His rich singing and convincing bullying of everyone who came in sight of him earned him a well deserved round of boos in the curtain call. Great, too, to see the well behaved Bullseye the bull terrier take on a supporting role!
Productions as good as this need strong backing in the minor parts; and in the following actors Tip Top delivered good cameos from Mike Heathcote, Jenny Jackson, Eric Jones and Lee Randle.
There was a great deal of interesting Choreography from Noella Grace who had a company of over 60 to mould; boys were well drilled and the company's enthusiasm and vigour in their big numbers ensured an evening of fine entertainment.
The settings were so much better than some I have seen; this authentic open stage set worked well. Ian Jones' lighting added the right feel of Victorian England. Just one small gripe; it might have looked better if the stage crew could have worn authentic Victorian costumes to blend in with the rest of the actors/singers.
However, stage director Nick Roberts kept the action and continuity as it should be in "Oliver!" - fast and furious. To complement the sets, Barbara Davies provided an array of costumes that convinced me that this show had everything.
I know that Tip Top always tries to give its audiences a real treat and "Oliver!" was, for my money, one of their best in recent years. If you missed it look out for their return to Mold next year.