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Oliver – Mercury Theatre, Colchester

Photo by Pamela Raith

This latest Made in Colchester production as a community theatre performance in association with Colchester Operatic Society and CO2.

Under the guidance of the Mercury Theatre Artistic Director, Ryan McBride this cast of all ages brought the magic of Lionel Bart to the new Abbey Fields site. ‘Oliver!’ is a firm family favourite with lots of wonderful tunes which will obviously have the audience humming and singing along throughout.

The set was a great backdrop to the production with lots of levels and some exquisite lighting which highlighted and added to the great staging and choreography from Charlie Morgan.

Oliver played by young actor Archie Ball, opened the show with a haunting rendition of ‘Where is Love’, which he sang beautifully and then continued to wow the audience with his charm and innocence. The workhouse numbers worked really well and the choreography in Food, Glorious Food was outstanding. Mr Bumble Played by David Chilton was a bit hit and miss as his diction needed greater clarity but Amanda Powell as Widow Corney kept the action and humour going and her vocals in ‘I Shall Scream’ were excellent.

The Sowerberrys played by Sally Fisher and Stuart Williams brought much of the humour to these roles and added another level to the storyline.

Joss-Paul Miller as the Artful Dodger was perfectly cast with the right amount of cheek and charisma and along with the other gang members delivered some great numbers.

Adam Woodhouse as Fagin gave a strong performance with great body language and stagecraft, however, his accent wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked, roaming between Jewish and Essex throughout the show but I really enjoyed his interpretation of ‘Reviewing the Situation’.

However, the stand out performance of the evening was from Leanne Field as Nancy. From the time she stepped on stage the whole production shot up to another level and her rendition of ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ was a show stopper. Opposite her Wayne Setford as Bill Sykes had the right mix of aggression and power to make us understand better Nancy and Bill’s relationship.

There were other nice cameo performances from Sophia Twohey as Charlotte, Sarah White as Mrs Bedwin and Olly Medicott as Dr. Grimwig.

However the chorus numbers were what made the show what it was, vocally they were incredibly strong and in particular the four soloists in ‘Who will Buy’ were the strongest I have heard in many, many years and I was disappointed that they weren’t credited in the programme.

The fabulous costumes and props were a clear indication of the high quality we expect from a Made in Colchester Production and were a great addition to the overall finished product.

In terms of Colchester Operatic this was clearly the best show I have seen from the Society in many years, a sentiment which was echoed by many of the audience members around us. Everyone involved should be very proud of the production as it certainly was a hit with all those who saw it tonight.

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