Review: Please, we want some more!

David Henshall reviews Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! which is presented by Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society at the Ipswich Regent until Saturday, April 21

Oliver! by Lionel Bart at Ipswich Regent until Saturday.

Kids, glorious kids – a stage full of the brightest, most exuberant youngsters you could wish to see in a show and what an Oliver Ipswich Operatic have found in little Louis Markham! Just nine-years-old, he oozes quiet confidence and sings with a voice that rings like a bell.

He’s matched by Jude Webb, 11, as the Artful Dodger, and the grown-ups are not so dusty either in a production that sweeps us along from one great number to the next and genuinely leaves us, like Oliver, wanting more. The combination of these kids in chorus and Mike Wren’s cracking orchestra creates something special.

Bart’s take on the Dickens’ story is one of the great musicals of all time and we all know how it ends but director James Hayward has managed to give his show a nice new feel on a super, simple, adaptable two-level set that is given lots of life by some clever lighting.

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A lot of credit goes to choreographer Laura Rimmer, too, because apart from 25 kids, she gets an adult chorus of nearly 20 as well as the named cast of 22 moving with military precision, a real first-night bonus. And there’s not a weak voice in the house, especially noticeable in the haunting Who Will Buy.

The youngsters are a treat, including a delightful Where is Love from Oliver, but there is some fine singing and playing from the rest of the cast. Stephanie Brown’s Mrs Corney and Rob Maplestone’s Beadle Bumble raise some good laughs as does Charles Mugleston’s Fagin. He has a lot of fun with the kids and the chorus in Consider Yourself and is particularly good with Reviewing the Situation.

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Sadie Cole is a belter of a Nancy, full of fire in Oom-Pah-Pah and movingly strong with As Long As He Needs Me. Jonathan Mudd is a thoroughly wicked Sikes and with silent menace, Dolly, the bull terrier, reprises a previous Oliver! appearance as his dog Bullseye.

David Henshall.

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