A couple of weeks ago I took a fleeting trip up to Sheffield to visit the Crucible Theatre and see their production of Oliver!. This had been a show I was very much looking forward to after Hayley Gallivan announced she’d be playing the role of Nancy, so it was safe to say I couldn’t complain too much with the four hour coach journey…
On the way to Sheffield I realised I hadn’t anything in mind of what to expect from this show, I’ve never seen a production of Oliver! either so knew at least it would be something new to me! The Crucible Theatre felt like the ideal venue to hold this show due to the nature of the stage and audience layout (best way to describe it is the audience seated in horseshoe formation!), I really enjoyed the way the round stage manipulated the show into moving around more with having to address audience members at the side of the stage not only in front.
The first thing I must address is how impressed I was with the children in the show, I think in total there must’ve been about 25 or more children (and this was just for one team!) all working together in the ensemble scenes seamlessly, it can’t have been easy getting them all under control. Some of them were so young too, I was just in awe of their discipline. The staging of the show was genius too with the tables and chairs rising from within the stage itself for scenes like Food, Glorious Food and Oom-Pah-Pah, with other scenes being brought on.
With so many children in a show they have different ‘teams’ that’ll be on for a certain amount of performances before swapping over, when we saw it we had Jack Dunn as Oliver and Jack Armstrong as Artful Dodger, and I thought these two made for a fantastic team. Jack’s Artful Dodger was absolutely hilarious, his accent so spot on too while Dunn as Oliver captured the pure innocence of the little orphan kicked out of the workhouse and thrown into the snake pit of child pick-pocketers of 1850’s London.
Tom Edden as Fagin I thought was brilliant, mastering the costume and mannerisms expected, and scarily making the character very likeable despite the ‘business’ he operates. Disregarding the creep qualities of the character I thought Tom made Fagin very caring as well towards the boys, seeming more like a father figure most of the time when looking after them. I thought it was sweet while unnerving. His humour was tangible and the quirks he played had the audience in hysterics at times.
Hayley Gallivan is someone I’ve been seeing quite a lot recently as for the past year she’s been standing by in the role of Elphaba in Wicked, therefore I was thrilled for her when she announced she’d be playing Nancy here in Sheffied. From seeing her Elphaba I know she’s got a fantastic voice and brilliant acting ability, however the role of Nancy is something very different, but of course she didn’t disappoint. Her rendition of It’s a Fine Life was full of cheek and I loved her interaction with all the children giving Nancy very enforced caring motherly characteristics. She then proceeded to have a jolly good time singing Oom-Pah-Pah later on in the show before breaking everyone’s hearts with a spine-chilling As Long As He Needs Me. Obviously I’m bias because I think she’s a fantastic performer, but I’d question anyone who wasn’t impressed by seeing her sing this in the show! There’s such raw emotion there and absolute strength, simply incredible.
Ben Richards playing Bill Sikes was without a doubt, terrifying. He had such stage presence and I don’t think it was just the characters afraid of him, I’m pretty sure the whole audience felt on edge when he was in the scene – which is a sign of great acting really! What I liked was how you could also see his affection for Nancy despite the overwhelming rage he encapsulates for the majority of the show. It made the anger and sadness on behalf of the audience even worse when the scene at London Bridge occurs with Nancy’s murder.
At the crux of it all, I was so impressed with this show and it exceeded how I thought they’d produce it. The choreography was fantastic with so many cast members, children and adults, working together in complete synchronicity, it also had quite a contemporary feel without bypassing the year the show is set in. It held the mood of the musical’s era while feeling fresh. The costume and set design were superb, all the hard work put into the show shines through and they really have made something great at the Crucible.
I would fully recommend and urge people to get themselves tickets to see this fantastic show before it finishes on the 25th of January because missing out on this would be a huge mistake!
Find out more on Oliver! at the Crucible