Poole & Parkstone Productions [P&P Productions] Lighthouse Arts & Entertainment, Poole Carole Gadsby 5 June 2024

Taking on a musical as beloved and intricate as Lionel Bart’s Oliver is no easy task, but Poole and Parkstone did a fantastic job of bringing the tragic and heartwarming story to the Lighthouse Theatre.  Bart’s adaptation of the classic Dickens novel follows the life of Oliver, an orphan boy in a London workhouse, who upon asking for more food ends up amongst a gang of pickpockets fending for themselves on the streets of London.

Despite Oliver’s attempts to fit in and join the business himself, he unfortunately gets caught – leading him to reunite unexpectedly with his long-lost family.

WOW, what a treat this production of Oliver was – a delightful showcase of local talent, blending heartfelt performances with the enduring charm of this classic musical. The evening was a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of the cast and crew, offering a fresh take on a well-loved story.

The first number in the workhouse ‘Food Glorious Food’ with the team ‘Plummy’ was fabulous. The children were energetic, well-coordinated and sang their hearts out. The choreography was lively and vibrant and showed the talents of the youngsters, leaving us with no doubt that this was going to be an excellent show which was going to leave us asking for more!

Mr Bumble played by Ian Metcalf and Widow Corney by Amanda King were a great twosome for these comedic roles. They were hilarious and had the audience roaring with laughter at their antics. The exaggerated expressions during ‘I Shall Scream‘,  balanced the somewhat darker theme of the story.

Oliver Twist was played by Hardy Hines who showed endearing innocence and vulnerability in the role. The young actor captured Oliver’s naivety and resilience perfectly, particularly shining in ‘Where Is Love’. His wide-eyed wonder and plaintive pleas for kindness pulled at the audience’s heartstrings, making his journey all the more compelling. Louis Kemp who played the Artful Dodger, showed confidence and flair and his enthusiasm was infectious, particularly during ‘Consider Yourself’.  The chemistry between him and Oliver was obvious and made them quite believable.

Fagan was portrayed by Frank Ewins and he brought a mix of sly cunning and paternal warmth to his role. His rendition of ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ was a highlight and a twinkle in his eye suggested deeper layers to the character.

Leonie Beck played the complex character of Nancy who was torn between her loyalty to Bill Sikes and her maternal instinct to protect Oliver. She portrayed the part with emotional depth and vocal prowess. Her rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me” was a show-stopper, filled with raw emotion and a powerful voice that conveyed her inner turmoil and strength. Her real-life husband Alexander Beck played the villain, Bill Sikes.  He was both menacing and intimidating and his portrayal of the role captured the character’s brutality and unpredictability, making every scene he was in palpably tense. His presence loomed large, casting a shadow over the lighter moments of the production.

Mrs Sowerberry, played by Catherine Attridge was superb in her role with great vocals and natural acting ability.  She was aptly partnered by Adrian Lane as Mr Sowerberry and together they were both humorous and entertaining along with their daughter Charlotte, played by Dani Warner. Noah Claypole, played by Dean Rawson was commanding and funny and obviously enjoyed his role.

The set design effectively conveyed the grimness of the workhouse, the bustling streets of London, and the dingy comfort of Fagin’s lair. Clever use of lighting and props helped to create a sense of place and atmosphere, enhancing the storytelling without overshadowing the performers. I was particularly impressed by the swift scene changes done by the cast in character.

Although overshadowed by the performers on stage the whole show was enhanced by the orchestra under the direction of Chris McDouall, which was faultless throughout, they brought this well-known musical to life.

With such a large ensemble, Claire Camble Hutchins as Director and Choreographer has done an impressive job. The chorus numbers with all the ensemble and the children were second to none, I didn’t know where to look so as not to miss anything. ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ in The Three Cripples was well orchestrated and cleverly presented. Very ingenious choreography and setting throughout brought everyone together in these magical numbers.

This production of ‘Oliver’ was a joyous celebration of community theatre. The cast’s genuine passion and talent shone through, making for an evening that was both entertaining and emotionally resonant, leaving the audience humming its memorable tunes long after the final curtain call. The show plays at the Lighthouse until 8th June.