Oliver leaves audience asking for more

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OLIVER!, Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, Saturday, February 12.

WITH a passion for performing and a cast which put their heart and soul into singing, Coquetdale Amateur Dramatics Society’s Oliver! The Musical was one of their best on record.

Marking the theatre group’s 10th anniversary, the audience was transported from Rothbury’s Jubilee Hall to Victorian Britain as the story of Oliver Twist, originally written by Charles Dickens and adapted into a musical by Lionel Bart, was played out and sung on stage.

Superb sets and costumes really set the scene for the performance.

Starting on a London street, the audience is given a taste of what is to come with the first glance of the vicious Bill Sykes and the loveable Bullseye, an English bull terrier found for the production after an appeal in the Northumberland Gazette.

But the real musical begins in the second scene when children gather in the workhouse and the singing starts.

The children’s voices filled the hall, as they sang Food Glorious Food, before the famous line ‘please sir can I have some more’ comes from Oliver.

This gives Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney their cue for Oliver, Oliver, sung with character and depth.

One of the most moving scenes in the first half of the production is Oliver’s solo of Where is Love. Harry Monks sang superbly. His quiet but soulful voice engaged the audience. It was poignant and heartfelt and it showed that he really was in character.

But the best bit for me was the introduction of the Artful Dodger.

Jonathan Roxburgh was one of the best actors in the show. He fitted his role brilliantly and was true to the image portrayed in the book and on stage.

Taking Oliver under his wing after he is turfed out of the Sowerberry’s funeral business, he introduces him to Fagin and his gang of pick pockets.

Once again the children give a brilliant group performance with Pick a Pocket. Fagin, played by the brilliant Robert Famelton, was the epitome of the ugly miser.

The second half of the show started with fun and frivolity as Fagin, Nancy and friends kick-off with Oom Pah Pah in the Three Cripples Inn.

But the mood soon changes when Mike Jevons’ performance as Sykes steps up a notch when Oliver’s brush with the law and his capture by Mr Brownlow is announced. The musical turns darker as Nancy is thrown around and beaten.

Linda Milburn’s As Long As He Needs Me was sung with passion and sorrow, giving the audience a true interpretation of the bind that Nancy was in with Bill behind her every move.

The rest of the show quickly follows as Oliver settles in to his new home, only to be taken back to Fagin but eventually returned to Mr Brownlow’s, after it is revealed that Oliver is his grandson.

Nancy and Sykes’ death scenes are dark and hard-hitting, and the play ends on a sombre note when Fagin’s I’m Reviewing the Situation brings it to a close.

The whole cast and those behind the scenes should be very proud of their first musical production.

For me the set changes took a little too long to execute and, while the music playing over them was good, you could see what was happening on stage.

This spoilt the first scene for me. Charles Dickens was narrating the story on the sidelines, you could see the set being changed and it took away some of the effect.

My only other criticism would be that we didn’t see enough of Bullseye! He got a round of applause when he walked across the stage, but then he wasn’t seen again.

Harry Monks was a brilliant Oliver Twist. A budding actor and one to watch out for in the future. The same should be said of Jonathan Roxburgh.

Costumer and set designers should also be praised.

A fantastic family show, which proves that CADS can do anything they put their minds to.