Tuesday, September 27, 2022

TOPS-Oliver: Consider yourself a success!!

By Mike Jones

WE should be getting a little of sick of Dickens . As celebrations of his 200th birthday appear on every available media, Thurrock Operatic Society decided to take on one of his most popular works which of course had been transformed by Bart in the 1960’s into a musical that he was so worried about he couldn’t bring himself to go to opening night. He needn’t of worried because, then as now this is a wonderful show which audiences lap up and sing along too as well. So how did TOPS handle the job?

You don’t need me to tell you the storyline or comment on the songs (everyone has their favourite ) but you need to know that this was a wonderful effort by cast and crew. From the very opening scene, which used scenery well as restricted by the Thameside stage size, our orphaned children sung with gusto and maturity well beyond their young years.

Gary Sullivan’s Bumble the Beadle was more Thenardier than Secombe and worked beautifully with Dawn Peats Widow Corney. The chemistry between these two worked a charm and I have to say that this was probably Dawn’s finest moment.

It would be a long review to mention all the cast so I’ll just pick a few. Josh Handley was probably only on stage for less than five minutes but he gave his role as Noah Claypole such depth and enthusiasm and authenticity he wouldn’t have looked out of place in the movie.

There were some excellent cameo’s as well particularly Reg Wheeler , Vanda Mercer and Martyn Williams . Gas fitter by day and Victorian landlord by night Keith Williams welcomed us to his inn to hear the excellent Victoria McKenzie bloom in the role of tragic Nancy. Victoria is blessed with a strong voice and a charming stage presence . Her relationship with Bill Sykes played by a menacing Gareth Barton worked extremely well . Small children in the audience gasped with fear every time Gareth came on stage so menacing was his portrayal of this evil man.

So to Oliver himself . Charlie Lynch was very believable , possessed a lovely voice and again was complimented by Jamie Reed ‘s Artful Dodger who swaggered and jittered around the stage teaching Oliver the craft of stealing.

And now to Fagin. Vic Gray has played this role before. But I seriously doubt if he has bettered this performance . Every Fagin since Moody has portrayed this character in this way . They have to, it’s the rules, but Vic just adds tiny little pieces here and there which makes it his own. A highlight for me was the number “I am reviewing the situation” in which Vic and orchestra leader Alan Watts dreamed up a sequence which was so powerful and well executed that the audience almost gave it a standing ovation.

The orchestra was perfect as was the scene changes and costuming. I must compliment Director Ann Sullivan on the massive task of organising a big show on such a limited stage. She created just the right ambience and probably had her work cut out orchestrating so many eager children.

The ensemble worked well and were used effectively and cleverly to move scenery round when needed. Another highlight was “Who will buy “which was very well executed. Their was little to criticise ,sometime the pace dropped a little, ensemble members were on rare occasions over or underused but that’s about it

It was wonderful to see a packed Thameside Theatre tonight a feat that few groups manage to achieve. This was by far TOPS best show for a long time and I encourage you to pickpocket a ticket as there are very few seats left for the rest of the run.

TOPS Performance of Oliver at the Thameside Theatre Wednesday 14th March 2012


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