Review by Leo Hughes
in the Herald series newspaper.
Oliver! by Jigsaw Stage Productions,
at Cornerstone, Didcot, April 26 -
'NEVER work with children or animals' was WC Fields’ famous advice. Jigsaw Stage Productions, under the confident direction of Gill Morgan, have taken on both those challenges with their current offering, 'Oliver!', and emerged with colours flying high. With nine performances to cover, Ms Morgan has assembled two children’s casts, each 17 strong, to do duty as orphans and Fagin’s gang, and the cast I saw at The Beacon in Wantage on April 6 gave a strong account of favourites 'Food, Glorious Food' and 'Consider Yourself (At Home)'.
Thomas Hulme in the title rôle managed to carry the sentimental 'Where Is Love' to the back of the auditorium despite a temporary microphone failure, and was rewarded with very warm and well-
Among the grown-
Much of the success of Lionel Bart’s conversion of Charles Dickens’ sinister novel into a comic musical is due to Bart’s transformation of Fagin from an evil avaricious manipulator of wayward young boys into a benevolent old gentleman with a taste for antiquarian jewellery and exotic handkerchiefs.
Edmund Bennett captured the part splendidly, and his 'Pick A Pocket Or Two' and 'Reviewing The Situation' were stand-
A second mention is due too to Chris Jones for her work as wardrobe mistress: there’s a fine array of tall hats! Musical direction is by Jevan Johnson Booth on synthesiser, leading a band comprising Dave Harvey on bass, Julian Bown on drums, Anton Gwilt on second keyboard, and Joanne Paterson-
It’s sad to think that imminent bankruptcy forced Lionel Bart to sell his rights to 'Oliver!' for £350 (to Max Bygraves, who subsequently sold them on for £250,000).
This is a show that will survive as long as there are musicals being performed, and Jigsaw have done it credit. Catch it at The Cornerstone Didcot next week between April 26 and 28. Oh, and those children and animals … my favourite moment was provided by the cat! WC Fields was right.
Review by Mike Lord
Oxfordshire Drama Reviews.
Oliver! by Jigsaw Stage Productions,
at The Wantage, Beacon, April 4-
Lionel Bart's musical version of Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist premiered in London's West End in 1960 and has been drawing large and enthusiastic audiences ever since.
When I spoke to director Gill Morgan ten days before the opening night, she described it as containing 'music that everyone knows' and 'a toe-
Jigsaw Stage Productions had two teams of children, who alternated between performances. On the Saturday night I was there, Team 1 was on stage. Opening a show is never an easy task, but the orphans made a generally confident start with their rendition of Food Glorious Food. A slight quibble in an otherwise solid first number – the first word of several lines was lost – a result of nerves, I'd say.
The production took off for me with the duet between Mr Bumble and Widow Corney (Paul Bowers and Karen Brind), I Shall Scream!, where the beadle, starved of physical affection, attempts to plight his troth to the amply-
We also had some nice characterisation from Mr Sowerberry the undertaker (Charlie East) and Mrs Sowerberry (Chris Jones) who take in Oliver as an apprentice and treat him appallingly, but the musical number that ends the scene (That's Your Funeral) was a little lacking in energy for my taste. A bit more oomph was needed.
The stage then emptied leaving Oliver (Thomas Hulme) alone to sing Where Is Love? I was impressed by the performance of this young actor, who brought the requisite pathos to the part. The other main children's part, of course, is the Artful Dodger and Felix Potter made a strong start in the role with his rendition of Consider Yourself. Praise too to Karen Brind for choreographing the dance routine that followed (and for many other numbers in the show, particularly Who Will Buy?) as well as to her dancers.
Anything? Fagin (Edmund Bennett) surrounded by his adoring gang of thieves and hangers-
Edmund Bennett clearly relished his role as Fagin and gave us a rogue with a warm, avuncular affection for his gang of thieves. Pick a Pocket or Two came over well as a parlour game for the benefit of the newly arrived Oliver, and his final song Reviewing the Situation saw Edmund doing justice to what is a difficult song to perform, both in technical terms and comic interpretation.
Fagin lives in fear of Bill Sikes, and hardly surprising when played as a brutal, irredeemable thug by Chris Palmer. There is nothing good to be said about the character of Sikes: he is a criminal, he beats his wife, is possessed of a demonic malevolence, and glories in the fear that the mere mention of his name brings to others. None of the above was the case with Chris, of course, who brought a brooding physicality to the role and made us believe he was truly a nasty bit of work. I particularly enjoyed his performance of the song My Name!
For me, the three best numbers in Jigsaw's production were It's a Fine Life, Oom-
Congratulations are due to the other members of the cast, young and old, all of whom contributed to a thoroughly enjoyable performance of a well known and well-
A final pat on the back goes to musical director Jevan Johnson Booth and other members of the band who gave a professional sound to an amateur production.