By Harry Mottram: We think of the charity Street Child for their work in places like Sierra Leone, Somalia and Afghanistan where homeless children live on the streets – often orphans and always exploited in third world nations where the welfare state does not exist as we know it. And yet only a few generations ago Bath, Bristol and London had thousands of street children – highlighted in Charles Dickens’ serialised 1839 novel Oliver Twist.
The story of Oliver has never been out or print since its unromantic portrait of the early live of the titular character grips as the reader wills him to survive in a coming of age story. Dickens’ genius was to tell a good story but also to highlight the social ills of the poor – which helped to bring about reforms and eventually the welfare state in the next century. The novel has been filmed for the cinema and TV and was adapted by Lionel Bart from the musical version of the story Oliver!
In September Bath Light Operatic Group are staging Lionel Bart’s Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Bath, following the success off their last production of Mack and Mabel. The group issued these words ahead of the musical:
The streets of Victorian London are brought vividly to life, filled with some of Charles Dickens most iconic characters – Join young, orphaned Oliver Twist as he escapes Mr Bumble’s oppressive workhouse, navigates the London’s underworld of theft and violence, searching for a home, a family, and – most importantly – for love. When Oliver is picked up on the street by the Artful Dodger, he is welcomed into a gang of child pickpockets led by the conniving, but charismatic, Fagin. When Oliver is falsely accused of a theft he didn’t commit, he is rescued by a kind and wealthy gentleman, to the dismay of Fagin’s violent sidekick, Bill Sikes.
Caught in the middle is the warm-hearted Nancy, who is trapped under Bill’s thumb, but desperate to help Oliver, with tragic results. The sensational score is packed with some of the best-known songs in musical theatre including Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, I’d Do Anything, Oom Pah Pah and As Long as He Needs Me.
Following their critically acclaimed productions of Mack and Mabel, Shrek Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Songs from the Shows, Bath Light Operatic Group return to the stage with Director Tristan Carter and legendary Musical Director Matthew Finch joining forces alongside choreographer, Lizzie Andrews. They lead a 35 strong adult cast from Bath and the surrounding area, 44 children split into two production sets and Doris, the English Bull Terrier, making her debut as Bill Sikes sidekick Bullseye.
The title character will be played by Charlie Alonso and Jack Parsonage, while The Artful Dodger will be portrayed by William Millard and James Flintoff. Playing the iconic role of Nancy is Harriet Lowe, who is making her BLOG debut. “I’m having such fun playing with the huge range of emotions and temperaments embodied within Nancy’s character. I can’t wait to feel that rush of adrenaline you get stepping on to the stage of the Theatre Royal. To do this with such a talented group of people and playing such a beloved character, is nothing short of a dream come true.”
Playing opposite her as Bill Sykes, is Nick Feierabend who played the same part in 2017 as BLOG performed the show at the smaller venue of Hayesfield School’s Roper Theatre. Oliver! promises to be the perfect family-friendly production this Autumn.
Oliver! the Musical
The show runs from 12-26th September 2023
Bath Light Operatic Group
Theatre Royal, Bath
Eve: Tues 12th, Weds 13th, Thurs 14th, Fri 15th, Sat 16th September 7.30pm
Matinees: Weds 13th, Sat 16th September 2.30pm
Tickets available from Theatre Royal: https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/events/oliver/
Photos: Samuel Kelly