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THEATRE REVIEW: Oliver! – The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

By The Gay UK, Dec 18 2013 10:02AM

Based on the timeless Charles Dickens story, Lionel Bart’s well-loved musical ,which is packed full of classic songs, including “Consider Yourself”, “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket or Two”, “Food, Glorious Food” and “As Long as he Needs Me”, bursts onto the stage of the Crucible Theatre in this highly polished, highly recommended and thoroughly enjoyable production.

By Paul Szabo | 18th December 2013

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Photocredit: Mark Douet
Photocredit: Mark Douet

The show tells the story of Oliver, an orphan who is thrown out of the workhouse for having the audacity to ask for more gruel. Put to work in an undertakers, he runs away to London and falls in with the Artful Dodger, a young pickpocket and the leader of the creepy Fagin’s gang of young thieves. But when he is arrested by the police, Oliver finds himself caught between a kindly gentleman and the criminal fraternity that he has become embroiled with.

Following last year’s award winning production of My Fair Lady, Sheffield Theatres had a lot to live up to for their Christmas musical this year, and Oliver! doesn’t disappoint. It is a brave director, who rests the bulk of the success of the show on the shoulders of a group of young children, but Daniel Evans has found an excellent young cast and elicits confident, professional and engaging performances from them all. In terms of the adults, the role of Fagin was played by Tom Edden who revelled in his performance as the wide eyed old man, being an intriguing hybrid of camp and creepy simultaneously and mixing the comedy elements of the role with an unsavoury undertone. Hayley Gallivan excelled as Nancy, with her stunning voice and her radiating warmth and stage presence. But up there with the highlights was a deliciously understated and scene stealing performance by Chris Vincent as the straight laced undertaker, Mr Sowerberry. In addition, the ensemble cast were all top notch performers and their fine voices, energetic dancing and enthusiasm simply couldn’t be faulted.

Photocredit: Mark Douet
Photocredit: Mark Douet

Amongst the numerous musical numbers, there were two show stopping moments which, interestingly enough were polar opposites of each other but which illustrated how well rounded this show was. The first was the bold, brassy and uplifting ensemble set piece for “Consider Yourself”, which had the stage filled with the cast who performed a stunning routine filled with props, excellent choreography, vibrant lighting and a joyous atmosphere. The second came when Nancy sang “As Long As He needs me”, with just a solitary figure stood in the centre of an empty, low lit stage to deliver a powerful, emotive and beautiful rendition of the song which caused the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck.

Photocredit: Mark Douet
Photocredit: Mark Douet

The theatre had a real atmosphere of the dark recesses of Dickensian London thanks to the beautifully constructed set and the low level but incredibly effective lighting which served to remind the audience that under the surface of this play which is covered in upbeat songs, comedy and colourful characters there is a very dark and bleak story and a social commentary. The costumes were all well put together and the mix of sound between the live orchestra and the voices of the actors was well balanced.

The production quality was the equivalent of shows that grace the West End and there was very little not to enjoy in this delightful production. The standing ovation it received was well deserved and you would be hard pressed to find a better Christmas treat.

Oliver! Is currently playing at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield and runs until 25th January 2014. For further information and to book tickets, visit http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/oliver-13

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