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Oliver! (Wirral)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Floral Pavilion

Where: New Brighton

“Please Sir, I want some more” may be the lament of poor Oliver Twist but could there be any more to want in Lionel Bart’s perennial favourite ‘Oliver!’? It has great songs, a terrific story, wonderful characters and plenty of comedy and drama. There are stunning solo songs and huge chorus numbers. You will laugh, you may cry and you come out uplifted and humming the tunes.

It is over fifty years since it was first produced but it still remains popular receiving regular revivals. If it hadn’t been for one Andrew Lloyd Webber Oliver! would be the most successful British musical ever and in its time beat Broadway at its own game.

It is a great show but it still needs a great company to make it work. Not surprisingly Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust comes up trumps with its third production of Oliver! within 12 years. It is a lively production that bursts forth across the footlights filling the theatre with such verve and panache.

Right from the opening bars director Elsie Kelly gets the show off to a cracking start with the well-drilled boys in their lively ‘Food Glorious Food’ number and the pace never lets up. There are typical Kelly touches in the production and her handling of the large cast is masterly. ‘Who Will Buy?’, the tavern scene, Oliver’s escape from the Sowerberry’s and the mayhem at the end of the first half are particularly well staged. With so much to admire in the show it is a pity there are avoidable niggles such as the obtrusive props changes and the awful white backdrop to Nancy’s main song.

Tricia Gaskell proves once again what a fine MD she is keeping up the lively tempo but also giving it the ‘big finish’ when required.

In the title role Harrison Shoemark shows confidence and there is cheeky charm from Connor McIlroy as The Artful Dodger. Mark Gairrusso is a strong Mr Bumble providing some delicious comedy as does David Noble as Mr Sowerberry while John Bowen is a dignified Mr Brownlow and Gillian Welsby makes a delightful Bet.

Although some supporting roles are weak or overplayed there are strong performances in the major parts. Linzi Stefanov is a tough yet vulnerable Nancy (shame about the pristine dress) and she delivers a powerful ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ which makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck. As Bill Sykes, Christopher Lee Power is scary and menacing and in the centre of the show is a tremendous performance from Tony Prince as Fagin. He is funny, fearsome, lovable and dangerous all wrapped up in an assured performance that commands the stage.

In giving such undoubted‘oom-pah-pah’ in this show I say to BOST: Be back soon!

- Richard Woodward


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