Oliver production has Oom Pah Pah

Author: Tami Mansfield

Published: September 23rd 2016

Nelson Youth Theatre opened Oliver! last night at the Theatre Royal, with a cast of over 30 focused youth and an even bigger (and fantastic) production team, directed by Richard Carruthers.

The result is great story telling of a dark tale that is somehow hopeful. Oliver! is a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. The musical was written in the 1960s by Lionel Bart.

Orphan Oliver (projected well by Ben Palmer) gets some porridge but asks “more please”.

Young Oliver’s innocence angers the wardens; he is sold into slavery to funeral parlor owners (well played by Gemma Rogers and Aston van Gosliga).Oliver escapes and meets the artful Dodger (played by a rising star to look out for, Matthew Edgar).

Oliver joins more kids to live in squalor with an old pick pocket artist named Fagin (played both hilariously and with vulnerability by the incomparable Jake Danson).

Every time the brilliant chorus sang I was stunned; they are led by Jim Weisman and wonderful pianist, Margy Wallace. Ellie MacIntyre plays Nancy with a belting singing voice you can’t get enough of, Megan Pochin has a great cameo as Sally, and Aimee Robinson created a sophisticated and funny role in Widow Corney.

I also appreciated Sam McIlroy as Sykes and Myer van Gosliga as Bumble. Acting isn’t easy.

I would encourage young Oliver to portray his frightening journey with sensitivity, not a wee bummer (as in, for example, realising he has an overdue library book). The programme notes give an honest history lesson about what life is like in slum London 1837.

Oliver begs the question, where is love? He is a miracle to survive his happenstance.

“Oliver!” performs at the Theatre Royal 22 September to 1 October. Please see it.