Oliver – Press

Review: Oliver! New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York until April 21

Thursday 19th April 2007

With a stunning set, a packed-out theatre and a rapturous audience, the New Earswick Musical Society is “delighted” with the opening of Oliver!

Act One opens with the 12-piece orchestra playing as the curtains draw back, revealing a two-tier set lined with 24 workhouse children, all with ragged hair and dirty faces.

The overwhelming Food Glorious Food benefits from the impressive choreography, where all the children march in a line like ants forming a figure eight. Throughout this, all 26 voices are perfectly synchronised.

Charlie Joy plays a convincing role as the orphaned Oliver. The purity of Oliver’s character is enhanced by the sinister Mr Bumble, played by Chris Hagyard, and Fagin, played by Stephen Kenwright.

Fagin’s complex character as a disillusioned vagabond is powerfully performed throughout the show. A particularly moving moment is the Reviewing The Situation scene, where Fagin contemplates the life he could have had: “Better settle down and get myself a wife.”

Fagin’s eccentric character is exaggerated by his bizarre costume, a large smoking jacket-cum-dressing gown stuffed with silk handkerchiefs. Kenwright’s performance is so persuasive that it is impossible to imagine him in any other situation – except Glastonbury’s Green Fields!

Director Ann McCreadie says: “New Earswick Musical Society is on the road to a great success with Oliver! and future productions.”

She believes the performance of Oliver! will become tighter as the show goes on and she pointed to how well the cast performed with the set on the opening night considering it was relatively new to them.

She said: “The children had only seen it on dress rehearsals and technical rehearsals.

“To work like they did having only seen the set twice was a great achievement for them.”

Asked as to how hard Charlie Joy worked for his role as Oliver, Ann said: “Charlie was very committed. This was his first big part and in the two weeks leading up to the opening night he had committed most evenings to rehearsing.”

Ann praised the support of all the children’s parents for taking them to and from rehearsals and collecting them.

By Rachael Clegg

Preview: New Earswick Musical Society production of Oliver!, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 17 to 21

Friday 13th April 2007

Many of the boys and girls in the children’s chorus for the New Earswick Musical Society production of Oliver! are related to members of the adult cast, committee and stage crew.

“It’s also very heartening to see that plenty of the children who have performed in previous shows have now become part of our expanding junior chorus, ” says publicist Alex Schofield. “This can only bode well for the future of both the society and musical theatre in general.”

Oliver! runs at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from Tuesday to Saturday when the New Earswick company performs the Dickens tale for the first time since 2000.

Oliver is played by 11-year-old Charlie Joy, a pupil at Millthorpe School, who began his acting career with the lead role of Aladdin while at primary school. “What I like about being in this show is meeting all the new people.

I’ve really appreciated being treated as an adult by other cast members, which has made me feel part of the society, ” says Charlie, who appeared in New Earswick productions of The King And I and A Christmas Carol.

Stephen Kenwright, who plays Fagin, has many years’ experience in musical theatre and has taken lead roles for New Earswick in The King and I, Gigi, Annie and Oklahoma.

“Like a chameleon, Stephen seems able to adapt his character to suit whatever part he portrays; he always brings his own style to the part, ” says Alex. “This is evident as he brings to life the role of Fagin, who mentors children in the art pick-pocketing. A bit ironic really, as in reality Stephen spends most of his time teaching youngsters how to avoid a life of crime.”

Society newcomer Alex Phillips, from Manor School, is the Artful Dodger. He has performed in school shows and took part in a drama production of The Constantine Project, where he played the Emperor Constantine, and now he is enjoying rehearsals for his first major role in musical theatre.

This production is a family affair for the Richardsons.

Carol Richardson, who has taken many lead roles with the society, will be playing Nancy. “I think it’s one of the best female lead parts there is, and I’m particularly happy to be portraying such a colourful Cockney character, ” she says.

Carol’s husband, Tim, is the society’s stage manager and daughter, Gabby, will be part of the children’s chorus.

After appearing for New Earswick in A Christmas Carol and The King And I, Martin Rowley switches to the dark side as the violent thug Bill Sikes. “Martin has never played a baddie before and for a former vicar this could be quite a challenge for him, ” says Alex Schofield.

“He’s extremely proud that all three of his sons, Tom, Elliott and Jordan, are in the show alongside him.”

Chris Hagyard, who joined the society for A Christmas Carol, will be Mr Bumble.

“Oliver has always been one of my favourite shows. In fact it was the first show I ever did, when I played Oliver in 1990 at the York Theatre Royal, ” he says. “I’ve seen many Bumbles but I hope to bring my own style to the part.”

Latterly, Chris has ventured into the realms of television, where he was short-listed for the last 48 for the part of Joseph in the BBC1 production of Any Dream Will Do.

Vic Heard follows up his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol last November by performing the more relaxed role of Mr Brownlow.

Humour is provided by of Johanna Hartley’s larger-than-life Widow Corney, Allan Rome’s Mr Sowerberry and Andrea Goodall’s Mrs Sowerberry. This will be Allan’s 20th year performing in musical theatre, many of them for New Earswick.

By Charles Hutchinson

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