KIRRIEMUIR Amateur Operatic Society staged ‘Oliver’ in the Kirriemuir Town Hall recently and thrilled the audience with the many great numbers in the musical.
The story of orphan, Oliver Twist, begins in the workhouse. The famous incident when Oliver asks for more gruel triggers a chain of events which eventually sees him re-united with his grandfather.
In between times he is sold to an undertaker but runs away next day. Unfortunately, he meets up with the Artful Dodger who introduces him to Fagin, He is then taught to pick pockets like the rest of Fagin’s gang of boys. On a pick pocketing expedition, Oliver is arrested and wrongly accused of theft. The victim of the crime, on finding out about the wrongful arrest, takes Oliver into his home. The villains, Fagin and Sykes are fearful Oliver will “spill the beans” on their illegal activities and send Nancy (Syke’s Doxy) to apprehend Oliver and return him to Fagin’s kitchen - which she does.
Nancy, however, regrets what she has done and makes plans to return Oliver to his rich benefactor. Sykes follows Nancy and Oliver, kills Nancy and re-captures Oliver. After a chase, Sykes himself is shot dead and Oliver is safely returned to his benefactor.
This rich, elderly gentleman, Mr Brownlow, by complete coincidence and good luck turns out to be Oliver’s grandfather. What an amazing, unintended consequence of asking for a second helping of porridge.
Logan Stewart in the title role of Oliver and was first class. He sang and acted very well throughout and had a particularly good rapport with the Artful Dodger (Andrew Smith). Andrew was perfectly cast for this part and his acting and singing were spot on. He played the cockney ‘Fly Guy’ to perfection.
Mr Bumble (Rae McLaren) and Widow Corney (Helen Taylor) ran the workhouse and were both conniving bullies with an eye for the main chance. They both acted and sang very well and were completely believable as a particularly nasty pair.
Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, the undertakers, were likewise a cruel and conniving couple. They too, were convincingly played by Derrick Sherer and Ruth Doctor. Charlotte, the Sowerberry’s daughter and Noah Claypole, the undertaker’s apprentice, were both nasty pieces of work and gave Oliver a hard time. To put it mildly, Oliver didn’t seem to choose his friends wisely! That said, Naomi Weir (Charlotte) and Lorcan Dyer (Noah) portrayed their nasty, bullying parts very well.
Mr Brownlow, a gentleman of wealth and breeding, was played by Rob Hardman. Rob gave a polished performance in this serious role, as opposed to the comic parts he has had in the past. He has become an accomplished and versatile actor.
Davine Farquharson as Mrs Bedwin, Mr Brownlow’s housekeeper, gave a beautiful rendition of ‘Where is love?’, she has a lovely voice.
Ernie Patullo played the minor role of Dr Grimwig and managed to inject a little bit of humour into the proceedings.
Bill Sykes is a fearsome character and Neil Paterson had him to a tee. Sykes is a ‘psycho’ and in a no holds barred, powerful performance, Neil nailed the character precisely.
Helen Shearer as Nancy excelled in the role which involves a lot of serious acting and singing. Helen was up for the challenge and gave a sparkling performance. Her friend Bet (Nichola O’Connor) complemented Helen very well with both singing and acting.
The pivotal role of Fagin was played by Jim Walker. He rose to the occasion and gave a flawless performance, maintaining a “yiddish” accent throughout.
His rendition of “Reviewing the Situation” was one of the highlights of the show.
For a successful production, director Chris Smillie and musical director Gordon Smith have to fit many parts of a jigsaw together. This they achieved through their obvious skills and ability through a lot of hard work.
The musical side was impeccable and the stage production was spot on. The well-balanced orchestra enhanced and complemented the singers and chorus. The “Who will buy?” number was particularly good and the orchestra were at their best in the accompaniment to “Reviewing the Situation”. The violinist’s contribution was outstanding.
The ladies chorus and male chorus performed well but particular mention should be made of the workhouse children and Fagin’s gang. Their opening number “Food glorious food” set the tone for the whole production. The youngsters involved were Liam Allan, Abby Cairns, Tegan Craib, Maddie Farquhar, Tamsin Glass, Scott Gordon, Victoria Johnston, Roseanne McDonald, Iona McKean, Ciara Roger, Leanne Simpson, Douglas Taylor, Graham Turner, Imogen Walker and Shannon Whatley.
Most people know that ‘Oliver’ is by Lionel Bart based on Dicken’s novel ‘Oliver Twist’. This year is the 200th anniversary of Dicken’s birth - well done ‘Kirrie Opera’ for doing your bit in this anniversary year.