Please sir, can we have some more?
With a cast of more than 60 humans '“ and one canine superstar '“ it's no wonder The Maltings was buzzing last week when Berwick Operatic Society staged Oliver!
And, given how many youngsters were clambering to be involved, it was a sage move by the society stalwarts to pick a production that would truly showcase their young talent.
Such was the strength of the squad, the group was able to select not one, but two Olivers, two Artful Dodgers and two Bets over the six show run.
When I watched on Saturday night, it was Corey Learmonth’s turn to star as Oliver – and what a star he was! A fabulous all-rounder, he is blessed with real stage presence.
Dodger was played artfully by Sam Rogers while Freya Simpson impressed as Bet. Both sang confidently and their cockney accents were so convincing.
I have it on good authority that Levin Bell, who played Oliver in three of the performances, was also excellent. Morgan Flannigan (Dodger) and Edith Bell (Bet) also received rave reviews from the many who’d seen the show more than once.
Cleverly, these six young actors slipped into the chorus of orphans when they weren’t taking on a principal role and joined their counterparts in singing a reprise of ‘Anything For You’ in the finale.
In fact, all of Fagin’s Gang (and there were 30 of them) were a joy to watch throughout. Always animated, singing enthusiastically and full of energy – they were a credit to directors Lisa Summers and Laura Catterall.
A tough act to follow for the grown-ups, but there was plenty of talent to go around. A lack of space prevents me from gushing but have no doubt every single one played their part in making this a very sophisticated production and I appreciated all the little cameos which demonstrated the abundance of skill and experience on stage.
However, to fail to mention Kirsty Jamieson’s powerful portrayal of Nancy would be unforgivable. The emotion in her voice made her solos spine-tingling and yet she exhibited such control when belting out the high notes. Likewise, Iain Lawson, as Fagin, sang with real poignancy while Euan Duthie (Bill Sykes) was just... terrifying.
There was slapstick from dentally challenged Mrs Sowerby (Nicola Stebbing) shrieking orders at her poor put upon husband (Bill Shardlow) and more comedy from frisky Mr Bumble (Steve Sadler) and Widow Corney (Sandra Storey). Essential to lighten the mood after some of the darker moments.
With so many well-known songs involved, tackling such a classic is risky, but this was a gifted cast, capable of exhilarating ensemble numbers and technical harmonies. Indeed, it was the quality of the singing which gave the show a professional edge, supported by the excellent live band.
Please, Opera, can we have some more?