Review: Oliver! King's Lynn Players, Corn Exchange, Lynn
Never work with animals and children, theatricals are advised. Well, the Players certainly ignored at least half of that advice with this sparking version of the evergreen Lionel Bart musical.
More than 40 children took part in the production and were really brilliant.
It was a case though of 'who let the dog out?' as they dealt with the problem of recruiting an animal to play the pivotal role of Bill Sikes' dog Bullseye by writing him out of the script altogether. Which perhaps diminished the famous finale as envisaged by Charles Dickens but is a mere footnote to what was a very enjoyable evening.
Oliver! is of course packed with great songs, Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself (At Home), Pick A Pocket Or Two, It's A Fine Life, Oom-Pah-Pah, to name but a few.
But it still needs to be performed well and the Players were up to the task.
First, plaudits to Alfie Waite, the 10-year-old who played Oliver Twist. Superb. He gave the character real heft. One suspects that Bart didn't altogether care for the goody-two-shoes Oliver and much preferred writing for the more villainous characters, but Alfie more than holds his own and gives poignant renditions of such numbers as Where Is Love?
Of the other principals, Ellie Buckingham really delivers as Nancy. As Long As He Needs Me has to be delivered as a showstopper and it absolutely was by Miss Buckingham's great rendition making her a star of the show.
Matt Austin is spot-on as Fagin, with Reviewing The Situation deftly delivered.
Jamie Nuttall is suitably threatening as Bill and Anthony Maley (Mr Bumble), Lucy Hawkins (Widow Corney) and Max Bithray (The Artful Dodger) all nailed it.
But the whole ensemble were excellent and the very good-size opening night audience (including mayor Nick Daubney at his final civic outing of the year) were clearly wowed.
A word to the orchestra under the direction of Samantha Ashby. Pretty much near faultless as far as I could tell and a real asset to the show.
The Players took a gamble on moving from the Guildhall to the far larger Corn Exchange for this 75th anniversary production but with buoyant ticket sales and a first-rate show it looks like that has paid off in spades.
Oliver! is on tonight, Friday and Saturday night with a matinee at 2.30pm on Saturday.