Oliver! 2019

Oliver! Review, May 2019 - NODA

Oliver! with music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart and based on the novel by Charles Dickens, was a successful film in the 60s and this stage production is stuffed full of all the well-known songs and characters that made the film such a success. From the opening ‘Food, Glorious Food’ to the great finale, the entire evening was full of memorable performances from this fine, talented ensemble.

The stage design which was dual level giving the impression of a bridge, combined with the lighting design helped to create the appearance of various settings: the orphanage, street scenes, the undertaker’s Parlour - was well conceived and of high quality. There was minimal disruption during the scene changes, sometimes during songs.

The costumes were in keeping with the period. There was great attention to detail and the costumes were well balanced. The lighting was effective and well controlled throughout. The sound was excellent with voices clear and blended well with the live music.

Kirsty Kingham as Nancy and Company performing Oom Pah, Pah

Kirsty Kingham as Nancy and Company performing Oom Pah, Pah

Director Liz Ilett is to be congratulated on directorial debut with this production. The cast were all on top form with some memorable performances, notably David Izzo as Fagin and Kirsty Kingham was a dynamite Nancy. This was an evening of classic songs, imaginative choreography and stellar performances, convincing accents and terrific singing which ended with a big round of applause from the appreciative audience. This was musical theatre at its best and lived up to the previous high quality shows we expect from BATS.

Chris Horton
National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) South East Region, District 14 Representative

We chat to Liz Ilett - our Director for Oliver!

“I want audiences to laugh, I want audiences to cry, I want them to believe in the story.”

That’s Liz Ilett’s aim in bringing Oliver! to the Haymarket stage for BATS. Directing the show has been a long-held ambition for Liz, who’s been involved with the Society for more than 30 years. So what’s special about this particular show?

“It’s a musical that has soul and a ‘real’ story. It’s not ‘pretty pretty’, it’s quite grim at times. It’s very much an actor’s musical, and we’re trying to delve deep into the characters and bring out the drama of Oliver’s situation.”

Those characters include iconic roles like Fagin (played by David Izzo), who leads a gang of boy pickpockets, the caring Nancy (played by Kirsty Kingham) and the terrifying Bill Sikes (played by Ali Bagshaw).

Several weeks into rehearsals Liz says she’s “very pleased” with how it’s all going.

Liz performing in  Sister Act, May 2015 , as Sister Mary Lazarus

Liz performing in Sister Act, May 2015, as Sister Mary Lazarus

“It’s a really strong line up of principal characters. The boys playing Oliver and the Artful Dodger are superb. We have two teams of children playing the boys and girls in the workhouse and Fagin’s gang, and some have never been on stage before. The youngest is just eight years old. Repetition is really important to help them learn their scenes and songs.”

Memorable moments in the show include Oliver asking for more gruel, the sinister relationship between Nancy and Bill Sikes, and of course uplifting musical numbers like Consider Yourself, Who Will Buy, It’s A Fine Life and Oom-Pa-Pa.

Liz hopes youngsters seeing Oliver! for the first time this May, will be as gripped by it as she was when she first saw the film as a child.

“Oliver! caught my imagination then – and it never let go.”

Oliver! runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

Consider Yourself... the Artful Dodger! Meet Ashton and Ben

With his lopsided hat, cheeky grin and streetwise attitude, the Artful Dodger is a great role for a young performer. He’s top dog of a gang of child criminals in Victorian London, who gets to lead big musical numbers like Consider Yourself and share dramatic scenes with characters like Fagin, Nancy and Bill Sykes.

So it’s no wonder the two boys who share the part in BATS’ production of Oliver! are determined to make the most of it.

Ashton Batchelor

Ashton Batchelor

“Fagin’s gang is like a family”, says 10-year-old Ashton Batchelor, ”and Dodger is in charge all the time, he’s always on the move, so I’ve got to use the whole stage. I’m practising every spare second!”

Ashton attends two dance schools and has appeared in shows like Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and BATS’ production of Singin’ in the Rain last year.

“It just inspires me being on stage. Seeing the audience happy makes me feel good.”

This will be the second occasion 12-year-old Ben Hastings has appeared in a production of Oliver! at the Haymarket. But he didn’t play Dodger last time.

Ben Hastings

Ben Hastings

“No, I was Oliver then!” says Ben. “But now it’s really fun to be a completely different character. It’s a challenge to play Dodger, who’s always being jolly and making the most of his opportunities.”

Ben’s other previous shows include Joseph and Gavroche in Les Miserables with BATS Next Gen and playing the role of Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert with BATS last year. He is full of praise for the Society.

“I’m enjoying working with really talented people,” he says of the cast of Oliver! which features 60 local performers, including 30 boys and girls. “It’s going to be a really amazing show!”

Ben and Ashton will each appear in 6 of the 12 performances of Oliver!, which runs at the Haymarket from Wed 8 - Sat 18 May. Performances at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Buy tickets online.

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