It is now 53 years since this Lionel Bart written musical was premiered in London’s West End. This was eight years after Rosyth & District Musical Society staged their first production, okay under a different company name, but I am glad to report that both seem in remarkable good health, in fact are positively flourishing if the evidence of the show I saw is anything to go by.
While other musicals of that era seen somewhat dated this does seem as fresh as always. Okay the show is packed from start to finish with quality numbers, with fine tunes and Bart’s excellent lyrics always funny, yet with the occasional message and this does help, but it requires special talent to produce this show, be it a professional version or in this case an amateur one. And this production has all that is required…. and more!!
There is comedy, there is good acting there is a multitude of great singing, a quality orchestra and some fine direction from Yvonne Musgrave, who herself has been a professional dancer both on TV and in West End shows. If there is one thing that slightly disappointed me was that I felt the choreography, given Ms Musgrave’s background, that there was some scope for more to be added, which for me anyway would have enhanced the experience even more.
I’m sure most people will recognise the story of orphan boy Oliver, this role shared by Andrew Morris and Luis Mutch, who ‘wanted more’ prior to be sold by Mr Bumble, Bill Blenman and the Widow Corney, Leigh Grieve, to undertakers Mr & Mrs Sowerberry, Terry Connelly and Lorraine Dobie. He ran away and on meeting The Artful Dodger, again this role was shared by Lewis Aitken and Liam Izatt, who introduced the runaway to Fagin, Mark Grieve and his den of thieves.
There he meets the delightful Nancy, Clare McGarr and the evil Bill Sykes, Andy Duncan and things lead to the obvious conclusion.
There is a supporting cast of what at times seemed like thousands but it was only occasionally that the stage, not the biggest I have seen, seemed overcrowded in spite of having a more complex set than some of the productions I have previously seen.
This is truly an ensemble piece as everybody added value to the production, but the principals, the young actors in leading roles were tremendous, the comedy of Blenman and Ms Grieve were played with style, the menacing Andy Duncan who’s Sykes was evil personified and Ms McGarr, portraying the troubled Nancy with feeling were all excellent. But I have to praise Mark Grieve. His portrayal of Fagin was first class throughout. His characterisation, accent and of course his singing were stand-out. I have seen professional actors turn in way inferior performances than Grieve delivered.
This show is doing great business, but there just maybe a few tickets available from the remaining shows 19-15 on Friday and Saturday, with a matinee on Saturday afternoon, so get in touch with the Carnegie Hall box office before they all disappear.
Reviewed by Geoff