By Amy Ellis Winter
On Tuesday Evening, New Theatre Oxford invited us for an evening filled with 'Oom-Pah-Pahs' as Oxford Operatic Society took Lionel Bart's Oliver! to the stage for their opening night.
Oliver!, which is based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickins, follows the story of a young, orphan boy on his journey from the cold workhouse to joining a gang of pickpockets. Being a large fan of musicals myself, and having not seen Oliver! live before, I was intrigued to see the extent of which I would be transported to Victorian England.
The talent and ability of the main cast was phenomenal, Nancy's (Nicola Taylor) vibrancy and costume design was indistinguishable from Shani Wallis, but it was Fagin (Steve Mellin) who stole the show with his nailing of the character through a mixture of perfected movements and body language, and his interactions with the Children's Ensemble. From the younger cast, I can't help but give a special mention to Isaac Talbut who fully embodied The Artful Dodger and captivated the audience with his joyful nature and chemistry with the rest of the cast. The outfits of the adult ensemble were impressive, and the production on the whole was well put together for a local musical group and I would be interested to see some of their other productions.
My boyfriend, whom I took to the theatre with me, had never seen nor heard the soundtrack to Oliver! before and so a couple of moments of confusion arose regarding the plot. I did notice some moments where actions, or clarity as to the characters' intentions (which are present in the 1968 movie-musical), being skipped over and I was left to fill in the blanks from memory. Obviously, it is impossible to recreate things to a tee on stage, but I would advise anyone intending to see this musical for the first time on stage, to first familiarise themselves with the plot line of Bart's Oliver! as to be able to keep up with the momentum of the stage show.
As always, New Theatre Oxford never ceases to offer a joyful experience in the theatre and this show provides a perfect activity for a family day out. Tickets may be purchased at this link: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/oxops-presents-oliver/new-theatre-oxford/