OLIVER! at Salisbury City Hall impressed before it even started, with a fairly spare but nonetheless effective set. It only got more impressive as it went on. With a mixed cast of Musical Theatre Salisbury (MTS) stalwarts and newcomers – which, as it was Oliver!, included a lot of young children – this was a great show.
Eleven-year-old Cameron Hawer was suitably winsome in the title role, and Will Laing, who is just a year older, was wonderfully cheeky and chirpy as the Artful Dodger. The adults shone as well, with Mike Bolton and Kate Sheppard putting in ghoulish turns as undertaker Mr Sowerberry and his wife, and David Irving as the dastardly Bill Sykes proving villainous enough to draw boos from the audience when his turn came to take a bow at the end. Dave Simmons as Mr Bumble put on some padding, grew some impressive mutton-chops and threw himself into the part, delivering his “The law is an ass!” line, and all the others as well, with gusto.
The roles that need to be the strongest in Oliver! are Fagin and Nancy and they were the ones that lifted this production the most. Laura Simmons really excelled herself as Nancy, delivering a performance that would not have looked out of place on a professional stage. And Robert Preedy as Fagin was a light-fingered, crafty, loveable delight
With an able supporting cast and a chorus who didn’t put a foot wrong, the dedication and hard work that went into this production was obvious.
Well done to all involved – we considered ourselves thoroughly entertained.
Southern Daily Echo
Oliver is a curiously uplifting musical given its dark subject matters of child exploitation, thievery, domestic abuse and murder. Maybe it’s the happy ending or the familiar lyrics and the comfortable tunes and possibly it’s the children, led by Oliver (Noah Ferris) who refuses to be beaten down by society. Whatever it is, it works!
This production was entertaining with pockets of excellence such as the outwardly coy and inwardly harridan, Widow Corney (Claire Timms), complimented by the bumptious Mr Bumble (Dave Simmons). Fagin (Robert Preedy) was happily understated and Nancy (Laura Simmons) felt real with her carefully guarded emotion. The production elements honoured the performances in their quality, as did the remarkable orchestra but why, oh why were the cast members not used for all scene changes rather than the incongruous crew?
The production broke no moulds but then tried and tested is not to be sniffed at, regardless of the number of hankies you’ve managed to pilfer!