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BATS - Oliver!

11th to 15th May 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Bringing London's streets to life

BATS (Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society): Oliver!, at The Anvil, from Tuesday, May 11 to Saturday, May 15

"Half the people in Britain have either seen it, or been in it". So said the Telegraph, when Cameron Mackintosh revived Oliver! at the Palladium in 1994.

This demonstrates the enormous appeal of Oliver!, BATS' latest production, performed recently at The Anvil. There can be few who do not know the rags-to-riches story of the orphan boy Oliver and this musical must rank as one of the most popular in British musical theatre.

The hallmark of this production was the quality of the principal voices, which were without exception superb. On Thursday night the production took little time to warm up, but it got better and better and there were some memorable moments.

Director and choreographer Martyn Knight had a large cast and used them well. The young cast were well-drilled and lively, the adults of the chorus gave their all, and not only did the principals sing well, their characterizations were spot on.

Gary J. Myers gave us the definitive Mr Bumble, humorous and in fine voice and likewise Lesley German as the monstrous Widow Corney. Anthony Mitchell brought a whole new meaning to the word creepy as Mr Sowerberry and was well partnered by Dawn Wylie as Mrs Sowerberry. The role of Oliver was played on the Thursday night by Jorden Maney who gave a confident and sensitive performance. (Alex Gonzato alternated this role). Jack Juniper was excellently cast as The Artful Dodger; his musical numbers being delivered to perfection.

Jim Welling had transformed himself into a memorable Fagin with much humour but with a hint of pathos. Nancy, in the person of Tracey Gonzato played and sang with poignancy and a touch of the doom which finally overcomes her. Her rendition of As Long as He Needs Me was as good as it gets. Ian 'Spud' Smith as Bill Sykes was enough to scare anybody down a dark alley and a special mention for Colin Flaherty for his outstanding and sympathetic portrayal of Mr Brownlow.

The cast moved confidently around the impressive set, although with its large set piece at the back, it left the chorus a little cramped. But they came alive in the crowd scenes, where a combination of colourful costumes and effective choreography brought the streets of London to life.

With a good story and music, a superb orchestra under the baton of Trevor Defferd, great costumes and wigs and an enthusiastic cast, could we have asked for more? I don't think so.