‘Oliver!’ was glorious.
Mesmerising audiences with an evening of classic entertainment, Savoyards Musical Theatre will have you pickpocketing additional tickets with their latest performance of ‘Oliver!’.
Based on the classic novel, ‘Oliver Twist’, by Charles Dickens, the musical stage adaptation is a story about hope. The Tony Award-winning show tells the story of a young orphan, named Oliver, and his struggles against the cruel world within which he lives. Born in a workhouse and sold to a funeral director, Oliver escapes and makes his way to London, where he finds himself accepted by a bunch of thieves, led by the elderly Fagin. However, not everyone is suited to a life of crime, and Oliver soon discovers leaving Fagin’s gang and starting anew won’t be so easy.
Director David Harrison and Music Director Jacqueline Atherton were brilliantly paired. Harrison was skilful in his direction, incorporating both dance and classical theatre movements to create a dynamic performance. Using the entire stage and set, Harrison utilised various levels and tempos. Additionally, the clear distinction made between principle and ensemble works perfectly encapsulated the essence of the original script. Overall, the theatrical direction of the performance enhanced the storyline and made for a lively, stylised performance.
Atherton’s musical direction ensured that the cast created full harmonies that resounded throughout the theatre space. All voices, young and old, achieved a classic English tone through their singing and stage dialogue. This is a testament to Atherton’s voice coaching and musical direction. Additionally, the orchestra enhanced the musical numbers, amplifying the harmonies for the crowd to enjoy.
Through ballet, contemporary, and commercial choreography, choreographer Carlie McEachern paid homage to the original West End production and other musicals of the ‘60s. McEachern was clever in her use of props and people. Her energetic ensemble routines were poised and purposeful. A particularly memorable moment was the musical number ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’, where the adult cast joined together to sing and dance to the lively and risqué tavern song.
Set design by Sherryl-Lee Secomb encapsulated the essence of the time period. From a rundown funeral home to the grandeur of Mr Brownlow’s house, the attention to detail regarding set practicality and architectural style was splendid. Every set piece was purposeful and eye-catching.
Overall, the cast’s performances in ‘Oliver!’ were captivating and animated. Jeremiah Rees as Oliver Twist was fittingly small and vulnerable on the huge stage but showed spirit and musical talent. Clearly a disciplined performer, Rees’ performance was powerfully skilled and captivating.
Quick to take the spotlight was Warryn James as the pickpocketing criminal powerhouse, Fagin. James’ textbook comic timing and well-rounded characterisation produced a vile, immoral, yet witty and charming character. His mannerisms, quick gestures, and chav English accent made him the ultimate con-man and James easily manipulated audiences into adoring him.
Priya Shah was a standout in her performance as Nancy. She delivered a powerful display of a woman stuck between two worlds. Her lively stage persona and complex character development encouraged the audience to sympathise with her. Shah played a passionate character and beautifully aided the play’s storyline. Shah’s impeccable vocal performance was unmatched by her co-stars. Her solo performance of ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ was a highlight of the show.
Bill Sikes, performed by Raymond Gillmore, was the show’s main antagonist. Gillmore’s acting ability excelled through his intermittent scenes and his presence was startling throughout the performance. As a first-time musical theatre performer, Gillmore offered a terrifying insight into the character and presented a perfect balance to the overall performance.
Oliver Dobrenov’s mischievous and wild performance as the Artful Dodger was lively and energetic. His quick wit and cheeky demeanour made for a captivating performance.
Rod Jones as the cruel and self-important church official, Mr Bumble, presented a wholesome performance. His first musical number, ‘Oliver!’, was powerful and demanding, yet also provided a sense of nostalgia for audience members.
Phillipa Bowe, as Widow Corney, aided Jones in solidifying the show’s adult/child dynamic. Her performance was well-conceived and admirable.
The remaining principal cast included James Riley, Rosie Odesy, Sarah-Jane Lakshman, David Harrison, Hannah Davies, Miranda James, Ellis Taylor and Patrick Davis, all of whom presented strong, captivating performances. Everyone on stage was committed to their role and the overall cohesiveness of the performance. As an audience member, it was mesmerising to watch the principal cast engage with each other and with the younger ensemble members.
The ensemble members of the show—adult, children, and dancers—were a wonderful asset to the overall production. Their vibrance and lively stage presence added to the atmosphere of the musical spectacle.
Lighting design by Gabrielle Burton beautifully complemented the staged choreography and captured the moods of the musical numbers. The striking blue and white lighting design used during the death of Bill Sikes was a particularly memorable and scenic moment.
Sound design was striking and expertly delivered by David Sowdon and David Longton. Despite some obvious microphone issues in Act One, the musicality and soundscape of the performance created a beautiful environment within the theatre.
For Savoyards’ second production of the year, ‘Oliver!’ was a glorious experience. The Iona Performing Arts Centre has played a perfect host to many emerging stars in Brisbane’s theatrical community and this production is certainly no exception. Everyone should “consider yourself”, and purchase tickets as ‘Oliver!’ will have you begging for more.
‘Oliver!’ plays until Saturday, 2 July 2022 at the Iona Performing Arts Centre. Tickets are available through Savoyards Musical Theatre’s website.
Photography by Sharyn Hall
Disclaimer: Performers in this production may be affiliated with Theatre Haus. Rest assured, we always take active measures to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.