Review by Jake Goodall
You’ll be asking for more at Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s outstanding production of Oliver!
Presented at the Redcliffe Entertainment Center, this fantastic production by Redcliffe Musical Theatre is stunning from the first down beat. Set in Victorian England, Oliver Twist has lived in the workhouse since his mother passed during his birth. Now an adolescent, Oliver manages to escape from the grips of the workhouse and flees to London. Oliver finally feels at home when he is welcomed into a group of young boys, led by the charming Artful Dodger who “makes wallets” for Fagin. He later finds out that the group is a band of pickpocketing thieves. Of this band of rascals is the violent Bill Sykes and his devoted girlfriend Nancy. Oliver begins to see Nancy as the mother figure that he never had and they form a strong, familial bond. However, while out on a job with Dodger, Oliver is picked up by the Bow Street Runners and placed into the care of Mr. Brownlow. Concerned for their own safety, Fagin and Bill form a plot to steal Oliver back and keep him from talking.
The impressive and dynamic set design by Jonathan and Madeleine Johns is extravagant and marvellously reflects the location and time period. Using a fly system to create each different stage setting works perfectly. The star set piece of this production is Fagin’s lair, adorned with handkerchiefs on a moveable truck. The lighting design by Chris Walker beautifully adds to the aesthetic of the period piece with a colour palette that perfectly complements each setting. The unsung heroes of the night however, are the sound team, who ensure each of the 50 actors are heard using wireless headsets. This dedication and attention to detail greatly adds to the atmosphere and scale of the performance, creating a stunning, full soundscape of voices.
Directed by Madeleine Johns, with support from Musical Director Rhonda Davidson Irwin and choreography by Sara Jane Aistrope and Taylah McLennan, this production is simply stunning. Madeleine’s direction is incredible and results in an exciting portrayal of Victorian England, complimented by the natural and meaningful movements of the cast. Musical Director Rhonda Davison Irwin’s passion shines in this production, ably assisted by Matthew Leigh as Vocal Coach. This pairing makes for spectacular harmonies and a rocking band that never miss a beat. The choreography by Sara Jan Aistrope and Taylah McLennan is mesmerising. A special mention must go out to ‘Pick a Pocket’ which is so captivating that you feel like you’re right there, thieving with the gang. Together these two create a show of perfect artistry and skill, with Tayla taking ownership of the gang, choreographing all the numbers with Fagin’s gang, and Sarah choreographing all the extra dances throughout the show (specifically the scenes in the town square).
Each of the 50 actors perform with passion and perfection and with a cast as big as this one, it’s hard not to be in awe. Thomas Armstrong-Robley plays the sly and sneaky Fagin, and develops a beautifully nuanced reflection of the character. Oliver, as played by Max Eilola on opening night, is an amazing casting choice. Eilola portrays Oliver, double cast with Toby Bailey, with a perfect sense of innocence and naivety.
Matthew Leigh as Bill Sikes is terrifying. Matthew brings to life a character so despicable that the audience loves to hate. The development of this complex character makes the audience almost sad to see their demise. Like Oliver, the role of the Artful Dodger has been double cast, and
performing on opening night is Miguel Gambley. Miguel plays this character with grace and style, drawing the audience in as the arrogant thief saunters across the stage.
An unforgettable addition to this fantastic cast is the astounding Georgia Burnett as Nancy. Georgia is impeccable and their rendition of the famous ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ is breathtakingly flawless. This performance staggeringly conveys the heartache and sorrow felt by this character in an emotionally charged scene that sounds as if it were taken directly from a recording.
Additionally, the amazing late addition to this cast, Alex Thanaoulis as Mr Bumble, exceeds audience expectations. Before the show, an announcement informed the audience that Alex stepped into the role only days prior. Despite this, Alex wowed the audience with their embodiment of this character. To step into a role with only a few day’s notice is always a massive and impressive feat! BRAVO!
Completing this tremendous cast is Sienna Randall as Bet, Kara Lee as Nancy’s understudy, Tracey Slingsby as Widow Corney, Paul Cant as Mr Brownlow, Jonathan Johns as Mr Sowerberry, Shona Bailey as Mrs Sowerberry, Caelen Culpeper as Noah Claypool/Dr Grimwig, Katie Underwood as Mrs Bedwin, Terry Skinner as Dr Grimwig, Rory Argles as Charlotte and Abbie Gommers as Charlotte.
The pick pocketing ensemble of Fagin’s Gang included Rory Argles, Abbie Gommers, Leo Chick, Lucas Van Stam, Layla Al Samarie, Eleanor Bailey, Mia Dacey, Tyler Haynes, Maisie Maughan, Adam Moss, Benjamin O’Regan-Lambert and Jacob Robinson.
Rounding out this star studded cast is the amazing ensemble including Alison Renton, Rebecca Renton, Rebekah Collins, Adele Jeffery, Hannah Hooton, Hannah Newton, Rylie Peck, Stevan Van Stam, Autum Irvine, Theresa Collins, Isabella De Luchi, Skyla Goodwin, Annabel Bailey, Jessica Bailey, Zola Bulan, Lj Fisher, Oscar Fisher, Maeva Kota, Harry Paul and Sophia Robinson.
All in all, RMT’s production of Oliver! can be summed up by one word; perfect. The production team’s attention to detail should be highly commended and all that’s left to say is, BRAVO!
Oliver! runs from July 8 -17 at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre, tickets are still available so get in quick!