REVIEW: Talent shines in 'Oliver'

The musical Oliver has a timeless quality with values that crosses generations and all levels of society.

Bad things happen to good people, despite their best endeavours.

Occasionally, good people are rewarded, but more often than not, life for many people is one struggle after another.

The Taieri Musical Society is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Oliver in its own style and interpretation and it has succeeded in once again bringing one of the favourites to life in a way that had the audience - young and old - on opening night laughing, feeling apprehensive, then relieved and laughing again.

It is a long production but slick prop changes help keep the plot rolling along.

The focus is on Oliver, played exceedingly well by young Nicholas Laughton who displayed the precocious talent needed for the part.

By halftime, most of the audience just wanted to pick him up and take him home, such was the empathy this talented actor and singer, who can also dance, evoked.

Oliver is an orphan who escapes from a workhouse only to hook up with the Artful Dodger (Nick Beckwith) and the rest of the Fagin gang of pickpockets.

Beckwith is an inspired casting of the Dodger. He looks like a Dodger, struts like a Dodger but has a heart of gold.

Murray Davidson plays a wonderful rogue-like Fagin who thinks about going straight, but in the end picking a pocket or two seems more rewarding.

For this reviewer, Nicky Chalmers had a stand-out night as Nancy, the downtrodden partner of the evil Bill Sykes, played so well by Paul Taylor.

Nancy sees the good in everyone, yearns for the best she can be, loves a bad man, saves Oliver from Sykes and pays dearly for her trouble.

Chalmers' solos, particularly As Long As He Needs Me, kept the audience spellbound.

It was so pleasing to see the enthusiasm and talent of the young cast members who make up both the workhouse orphans, Fagin's ragamuffins, and general background for crowd scenes.

They had worked hard in their preparation and were rewarded by loud and prolonged applause during the night.

Be prepared for some excellent and surprising cameos. Sometimes you have to be quick to catch them.

The production is directed by Gladys Hope, the musical director is Bridget Telfer and Robyn Sinclair is the choreographer.

Oliver plays until July 17.


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