Lionel Bart’s Oliver! has probably become one of the most popular musicals to grace a stage since its premiere in the early sixties. Who doesn’t know such iconic songs as “Food, Glorious Food”, “As Long As He Needs Me”, “Oom Pah Pah” and (of course) “Consider Yourself”, and what young boy with a beautiful soprano voice hasn’t wanted to play the title role?
With such a well known show, one would think that there is not any new or unique way of staging it. How wrong one would be, especially if they know of the incredibly genius, off-kilter mind of David Lampard. If there is a new and different way of presenting something, Lampard knows how to pull it off. His version of Oliver! for the G & S Society is simply stunning and superb. He uses a stylised approach, with a minimum of sets, Mark Wickett’s cleverly projected images, and Daniel Barber’s excellent lighting design to produce a highly atmospheric, foggy and claustrophobic Victorian England. The staging of the show’s usually-difficult climax and the Tim Burtonesque presentation of the Funeral Parlour scene (with Lampard himself channelling Johnny Depp’s performance from the film Dark Shadows) are sheer genius.
Peter Johns finishes off the top notch production team with his usual mastery of both cast and orchestra with every note pitched perfectly from both.
As the villain we all love to love, Fagin, actor Rod Schultz is absolutely superb in what is perhaps the definitive portrayal of this famous character. He gives the audience everything they expect – the East End Jewish accent, the cunning and the humour – but beautifully understated, making Fagin real and utterly believable. The other cast member who excels at this style of realism, and absolutely charms from go to whoa is Emma Bargery as life’s ultimate victim, Nancy. Everything is just so right with this young lady’s portrayal, leading up to her very poignant and stunning rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me”.
This is not to say that the rest of the cast don’t shine – they do: Paul Talbot (Bill Sikes) and Bev Shean (Widow Corney) in particular; and, in what would have to be one of the most exaggerated but hilarious death scenes ever, Wendy Rayner as Old Sally.
On opening night, Jack Raftopoulos was a very appealing, sweet voiced Oliver Twist; with Isaiah Fabbro suitably cheeky and charming as The Artful Dodger.
Lampard gives us an abstract, highly original Oliver! that still retains the traditional appeal of the original, so consider yourself very fortunate to have this wonderful production playing in Adelaide at the moment.
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Venue: Arts Theatre 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 19-27 July 2013
Duration: 2.5hrs including intermission
Tickets: $25.00 – $38.00
Bookings: [email protected], ring 8447 7239 or go to http://gandssa.com.au/shows/oliver
Photo Credit: Rod Schultz as Fagin