Saturday 1st April was the final performance of ‘Oliver’ by Newark Amateur Operatic Society (NAOS) at the Palace Theatre, Newark. It’s my first visit to this theatre and I was really impressed, not only with the facilities and the seating, but the staff, bar, refreshments and general organisation. I’m fairly familiar with the film ‘Oliver’ as I’m sure many of you are, but I’ve never actually seen the stage show until now; the music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart was produced for the Broadway stage by David Merrick and Donald Albery. Both the film and the stage show were based on the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens and it was great to be reminded again of the story and the well loved songs!
The first thing that impressed me from the start was the wonderful stage, although fairly simple in look, it was very effective; it was set Victorian London with a backdrop depicting St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline, it really set the scene, with stairways and a gallery that were all used in various scenes in different ways.
Things got off to a great start with the ‘Workhouse Boys’ lining up in the dining hall… and ‘Food Glorious Food’. The young lads did really well, their enthusiasm and energy was inspiring, despite being the last show of the run!
Although the whole show was very enjoyable, there were a few stand-out performances that I want to call out…
First, ‘The Artful Dodger’; although there were 2 principles for the junior roles, in our performance it was played by Cody Harrison. My programme tells me that this was Cody’s first performance with NAOS, although he has appeared at the Palace Theatre previously with AJ Dancing School. Cody really brought the character to life for me, the brilliant cockney accent, the singing (especially ‘Consider Yourself’ and ‘I’d Do Anything’ with ‘Nancy‘), the movement, the dance and the comedic timing were all brilliant, I am keeping a note of this young man’s name as I’m sure I will see it again sometime!
Another special mention must also go to ‘Nancy’, played brilliantly by Jo Dewberry aka Show Jo. Her portrayal of what appeared to be a loving, caring motherly figure, but was really a strong, powerful heroine, was exceptional, coupled with her beautiful vocal renditions and heartfelt solo’s, definitely moving not just for me, but the audience as a whole, well done Jo!
It would be remiss of me not to mention some of my ‘Superstar‘ buddies…several cast members were part of the Jesus Christ Superstar production in Lincoln Cathedral in 2015 and/or 2016 including; Pete Merrick (Pilate 2015 and 2016) who played a gorgeously cuddly ‘Mr Bumble’, complete with whiskers and rotund tummy, delighted the audience with his wonderful love tryst with ‘Widow Corney’ played by Kate Fenn – their beautiful banter and harmonious duets, and solos, were a complete delight! Lyndon Warnsby (Herod 2016) played ‘Bill Sykes’, a nasty piece of work who got plenty of ‘boos’ at the end of the show; his companion, ‘Bullseye’, played by Ollie the English Bull Terrier, just added to the brutal image perfectly! ‘Mr Brownlow‘, the saviour of the day, was played by Barry Thompson (Tom the Shepherd 2015, Slave Trader 2016); it was lovely to see him realising Oliver was family and he could offer him a home… Last but not least Helen Robinson (Juliette 2015) was part of the chorus in this, her ninth production with NAOS. We’ll watch out for Helen again as she takes part in Annie in May with Worksop Light Operatic Society (WLOS) and a showcase later in the year with CATS (Charity Amateur Theatre Society) with various other roles coming up during 2017 and 2018!
Our ‘Oliver’ was played by Sam Barnard, he was a delight to watch on stage, and once he found his feet, his rendition of ‘Where is Love’ was really lovely… his numbers with Cody, Jo, Justin Day who played Fagin and the rest of the boys were also great to watch, and we have to thank Natasha Logan for the brilliant choreography.
It was great to be reminded of lots of old musical favourites, ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘I’d Do Anything’, ‘Pick a Pocket or Two’, ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ and of course ‘Food Glorious Food’. The orchestra, led by Musical Director Andy Raine, did a fabulous job – along with all the musicians, soloists and chorus, the harmonies were gorgeous.
I’d like to thank the rest of the cast as a whole, I’m sorry I can’t mention you all, for the wonderful performances and to Mike Follen, the Director for bringing it all together. I thoroughly enjoyed the show! Thanks also to the Creative and Production Teams, the stage, lighting and costumes were all superb, a great job!
Lastly, thanks to those that were involved in putting together the programme. I buy one for every show I watch; I not only like to read about the show after I’ve watched, but I like to read about the characters, the show, and other interesting facts. I have to say that the programme for this production of ‘Oliver’ is probably one of the best in content, and certainly best value for money of all the programmes I’ve bought in recent times. I’m sure there were many people involved in its production, but well done Ben Atkinson at Tall Lime, (who also played ‘Dr Grimwig’) for the Design and Production.
Well done NAOS; Rent was the very first show I reviewed when I started this blog, and Oliver certainly won’t be the last!