Review: Oliver! Sheffield Crucible

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THEY’VE done it again. Last Christmas, Sheffield Theatres gave us a show full of heart. My Fair Lady was a success beyond what the creative team would dare have imagined.

While they claimed not to be intimidated by the prospect of following that success, there must have been concerns. Turns out they need not have worried. This is going to be a massive success for the theatre. It is hugely enjoyable thanks not least because everyone on stage is constantly expressinng massive amounts of joy. And joy really is the word for this musical. Yes, it helps that Lionel Bart didn’t half know how to write a tune, but when those tunes are performed with this sort of brio and bravura it raises the whole thing – including the audience to its feet for an entirely earned standing ovation.

Director Daniel Evans’s background as an award- winning actor, particularly in musicals, is stamped right through this production. The performances (bar an inexplicable pantomime villain turn from Ben Richards as Bill Sykes) are universally compelling and brilliant fun to watch. Tom Edden as Fagin is scenery-chewingly hilarious, but that genuinely goes for the whole core cast. The big numbers, including classics Consider Yourself and Who Will Buy, are breathtaking, but the real revelation are the youngsters from around Sheffield who make up the ensemble in the workhouse and Fagin’s gang. Christmas, cute kids and families lining up to buy tickets to see their little ones – it’s a financial dead cert. Nothing, however, could be less cynical than the casting of each of these well directed, very talented young actors. Sheer brilliance.

To Jan 25.