The best idea Marie Rogers could have had for staging the musical Lionel Bart’s Oliver! was the simplest idea – emphasizing a discreet distance to the literary prototype while maintaining the old-fashioned charm of Charles Dickens’s novel. England, 19th century. Oliver Twist, who lives in the orphanage, demands more food, for which he is punished, and because of this, he runs away to London. There, thanks to a new acquaintance with Artful Dodger, he ends up in a gang of juvenile thieves. They are “guarded” by the dangerous Fagin.
Since its first publication in 1837, the book has been adapted to the stage and the big screen many times. Maybe because of the intensity of dramatic tragedy in it is such that we will think twice before we recommend watching his novel to children, even though only 10-year-olds are its heroes. Marie Rogers gave up her perhaps more original artistic tendencies to convey all the conservative positivism emanating from the works of Dickens. Children, and orphans, are homeless, the poor suffer from terrible deprivation, and prostitution, theft, and murder are the bread and butter of the inhabitants of the poor districts of London. The rich, who are forced to venture into these areas, look at everything indifferently from the height of their coaches, so as not to soil their elegant toilets – this is how the capitalist system was seen by Dickens.
We certainly have a chance to admire the skillfully produced musical by Nottingham Arts Theatre, with Marie Rogers, Amy Rogers-Gee, and Kevin Towse, made without ambiguity, subtext, and bizarreness in favor of toning down the form and psychological truth. The “child” actors were splendidly led. Liam Brown in the role of Oliver is natural both in his contestant and submission to fate. The performer of the title role plays in an extremely credible way. From the beginning, we feel that there is something special about this vagabond, which is expressed in the way he speaks, his manners, and his respect for other people. Children follow his fate with bated breath, which is contributed to by fast-paced action, sensational thread, intrigue, and mystery.
It deserves attention Jamie playing Artful Dodger is full of the mischievous charm of a marauder. Shan Bhumbra, of course, kept up with the young actors as the demonic and ambiguous Fagin. Where he raved and sang bravado. The young soloists presented themselves excellently, in terms of vocals, acting, and choreography. This gives us hope that a new generation of talented musical actors is growing.
The young performers are accompanied by numerous adult actors. She also delighted Abby Wells – as Nancy, with her voice and stage charm. Pippa Word – as Mrs. Sowerberry – also made a big impression with the difference in the means of expression. In such a filled space, manipulating the crowd was quite a challenge. Choreographer Amy Rogers-Gee handled it remarkably well. Group scenes are dynamic, and devoid of overcrowding. The scenes with the participation of children have been enriched with humorous elements, which gives the choreography energy and lightness. The whole is complemented by costumes that dressed the artists in various costumes from the era, well reflecting the class stratification of 19th-century England. They delight with their beauty and precise workmanship, and at the same time, they are not devoid of humorous accents.
Nottingham Arts Theatre’s production of Oliver! however, it is not a typical performance, mainly since, apart from adult artists, it also features over twenty-five children *of various ages. How Marie and Amy managed to not only discipline this group but above all to make it mature as an actor, will remain their mystery. Just like the working methods of Amy Rogers-Gee, who created mainly lyrical routines for adult dancers, and full of exuberant joy for young people. In both cases the execution was perfect!
Nottingham Arts Theatre’s newest musical impresses with the use of every minute. There is no respite for the viewer in this performance; even props play in it, with wooden spoons. However, the stage movement is not chaotic but subordinated to the development of the action. Rogers achieves the effect of pulsating events by giving acting tasks to every actor present on the stage; even when it appears literally for a few seconds and in the third plan. The rhythm of the background and the impression of real life is sharpened by the actions of the main characters.
As usual, they created their slightly frivolous fact, Lindsey Jaycock (Mrs. Corney) and Bertie Black (Mr. Bumble) without fail, and Bill Sikes performed by John Gill is also memorable. I don’t think those few who after the premiere of the musical “Oliver!” at Nottingham Arts Theater, they were worried about the addressee of the performance. It’s just a great theater for the whole family! The story of Oliver Twist also has a very contemporary equality message: it makes us realize that social position, the place that a person occupies in the world, does not matter; they are a matter of chance and do not testify to the true worth of a person…Rogers has managed to create a show that both children and adults will enjoy. No doubt Oliver! is the best show for children and young people at the Nottingham Arts Theatre’s.
Written By Kamila Krzyzaniak
Liam Brown – Olivier
Shan Bhumbra – Fagan
Jamie Adlam – Artful Dodger
Abby Wells – Nancy
Bertie Black – Mr. Bumble
Lindsey Jaycock – Mrs. Corney
Pippa Ward – Mrs. Sowerberry
Sam Howard – Mr. Sowerberry
Scarlett Coleman-Smith – Charlotte Sowerberry
John Gill – Bill Sikes
Ernie and Sykes as Bullseye
Lead Supporting cast.
Olivia-Rose Bonham – Bet
Michael Coles – Mr. Brownlow
Emily Townsend- Mrs. Bedwin
Mark Russell – Mr. Grimwig
Jonathan Jaycock- Noah Claypole
Alison Russell / Esther Coleman-Smith – Old Sally
Hermione Cumbers, Nicole Spilsbury, Sophie Benner
Barry Hobbs, Bianca Cavalcanti, Isobell Munden, James Fleming, Payash Raslan, Roy Smith
Coen Thurlby, Erin Mills, Evie Jamieson, Freya Barks, Isabella Wiley, Isla Stevens, Malikea Smith, Mia Jacks, Orla Donoghue, Rhaea Parker
Dylan Whistance – Charley Bates
Elizabeth Kenny – Nipper
Ana- Lucia Ward-Gonzalez