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Gallery/Review: Oliver!, The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company, the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, to June 28

PUBLISHED: 11:43 25 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:43 25 June 2014

Oliver by The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company. Photos: Mike Kwasniak

Oliver by The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company. Photos: Mike Kwasniak

© Mike Kwasniak Photography 2014

Normally, I'd do anything to avoid watching this musical, it's one of my least favourites ever. The story seems to go on forever and the whole thing comes across either mawkish or cartoony. So I was surprised to still be humming Consider Yourself and Oom-Pah-Pah on the drive home.

This version had plenty of punch and pace. The 50-strong cast’s boundless energy was infectious from the moment they launched into Food Glorious Food.

Director Oliver Brett, who played the title role when the Juniors last staged the Lionel Bart show 14 years ago and whose production of Cats for the company won the east region awards for best youth production and best production from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, has done a great job.

Stephen Skrypec and Rachel Lucock served up more laughs than they did gruel as Mr Bumble and the Widow Corny; particularly with their saucy rendition of I Shall Scream.

Providing pathos was Lucy Allen as Nancy, whose performance of As Long As He Needs Me oozed emotion.

Her death at the hands of Bill Sykes was handled particularly well, in terms of staging and performances.

Well sung, well acted and well danced by all throughout, I did think Chris Evans’ Sykes could’ve been a bit more menacing and Owen Berry’s Fagin a little less exhuburant. It was occasionally hard to hear some of the principals, particularly Haydn Ingram as Oliver, at times too.

I was watching the dress rehearsal though. With this dry-run under their belt and the prospect of an audience to bounce off I’m sure these nit-picks will be sorted.

I still wouldn’t consider myself an Oliver convert, but I would happily watch this version again.

Check out the online picture gallery and look behind the scenes now.

Wayne Savage

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