Following on from the success of the dazzling ‘Sister Act’ and the playful ‘9 to 5’, Pilkington Musical Theatre Company have turned back the clock to give us something more traditional this year. An old classic that is much loved by audience’s young and old, ‘Oliver!’ is brought to life once again at St Helen’s Theatre Royal by this talented musical theatre company.
Oliver! which is based on the novel written by Charles Dickens in 1839, shares the story of the courageous young boy, who faces a nasty penalty after he famously asks for “more”. Oliver is sold into slavery and although he manages to escape, his worries are far from over as he becomes acquainted with some new friends’ and some shady characters living on the streets on London.
Tonight’s production got off to a shaky start and I felt a lot of the cast were nervous despite how well rehearsed they clearly are. However this was a distant memory by the end of the first act and the scenes within Fagin’s ‘grotto’ brought an infectious liveliness that lifted the audience and got everyone smiling. The youth chorus must be commended for their waves of fun energy and enthusiasm that captivated the audience throughout.
Fagin (Harry Moore) gave a stand out performance bringing humour and style to a show that is somewhat sombre in parts. Nancy’s (Katie Speakman) rendition of ‘As long As He Needs Me’ was the perfect tear jerker and Bet’s (Daisy Shuttleworth) beautiful voice did not go unnoticed either. This is a show were the audience are eagerly waiting for their favourite songs and ‘Pilkington Musical Theatre Company’ completely delivered every number with elegance and charm.
Having reviewed this show a number of times, this particular version of Oliver! really stands out for the quality of its production. The set is breath-taking and utilised to its full potential which is not an easy task with a cast of this size. Similarly the costumes were absolutely perfect and gave the show a very professional finish. The lighting was especially excellent as it enhanced every scene using various dynamic techniques to create further atmosphere. The band were exceptional and only for the wonderful Musical director (Wayne Oakes) standing at the front, waving a wand as if by magic, you could have thought this sound was a live recording from the west end sound track. Huge credit to Director (Simon Foster) and the whole team who together, with the cast and crew, they have created a highly enjoyable night of entertainment.
On a personal note and knowing the vast capabilities of this company, I think the modern musicals have had an extra special something compared to the more traditional choice. However I know that Oliver! appeals to the masses and PMTC have proved that they will be successful, no matter what they turn their hand to. As I walked out of the theatre I overheard nothing but compliments for this “cracking show” and it is a certainty that this show will entertain time and time again. Huge congratulations to PMTC who managed to preserve all the pleasing, original and much loved characteristics of Oliver and a massive ‘Good Luck’ for the rest of your run. Oliver continues at St Helen’s Theatre Royal until Saturday the 12th of October 2019. For Ticket information, please visit www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com
Reviewer: Blathine Maguire
Reviewed: 10th October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★