Published on: Monday, November 27, 2023

Oliver! Jr was an ambitious King’s College Prep Musical which the audience will remember as one that certainly ‘entertained’.  Each year it is said that musical productions at King’s College Prep go from strength to strength.  This was evident from the moment the house lights faded and the auditorium went silent.

The powerful opening music commenced, and the audience sensed something spectacular was about to happen - they certainly weren’t wrong - the production was truly brilliant, taking the audience on a captivating journey through Charles Dickens' timeless tale of hardship, resilience, and hope.  The whole production was staged with enthusiasm and skill, with a delightful blend of music, dance, and storytelling.

The energetic cast clearly showed their outstanding skills in acting, dancing, singing, ensemble work, technical and backstage.  Audiences witnessed a wealth of talent on stage and recognised the life skills that drama teaches children - the support and boundless energy the cast gave each other to produce a seamless, high-quality show was impressive.  It was delightful to see so many children who started their journey on the stage in Nursery, performing with the maturity of adults.

Director, Lisa Keirle has often dreamed of working in the ‘West End’ and does like to push the children to ‘be the best they can be’.  Well, this performance was definitely ‘like watching a West End show in London!’  The casting was spot on and it was clear that all the children understood their characters and embraced their roles, bringing their characters to life with commendable dedication.

The striking set design and scenery, props and costumes had us transported to Victorian-era London instantly.  The tale was beautifully told by a cast who clearly understood the play and their chosen roles.  The impressive main characters kept their strong Cockney London accents while speaking and singing, which is no mean feat.  The moody lighting and watching the actors use space a stone's throw from their audience added to a feeling of being a part of this London scene.  There was great choreography in the dances and the movement during each scene was cleverly thought out.  The heady mix of sadness, fear, intrigue and joy was a treat to watch.  The quality of the singing and acting was astonishing – pure talent from such a young cast.

The cast and crew were discreet, hardworking and efficient in all of the scene changes - it was like going to a professional performance.  All credit to the backstage team who smoothly transitioned between each new scene with the calmness and teamwork needed.  It was wonderful to have two past students (Charlotte and Erin) helping and supporting Year 8 so patiently.  The complexity of the 13 microphones being used and all the musical tracks was superbly handled by Keiran and Lucas.  George on lights played a pivotal role in creating the mood and wonderful atmosphere of the various scenes, often heightening the emotional impact of key moments. The attention to detail in costume design was spot on to create the authenticity of the production,

Eunis was charming in the titular role of Oliver Twist , rightly, as an innocent among rogues, and made great impact with her true voice. Her innocent and angelic portrayal was especially moving and tugged at the heartstrings in the song Where Is Love? which I am sure brought a tear to many an eye.

Stand out performances were given by all the cast and the chemistry was delightful between main characters and the ensemble.  This production clearly had a supportive cast who had grown in their roles over the weeks and who supported each other through the highs and lows of rehearsing and the nerves of opening nights to produce strong final performances.

Elsa, impressed as an agile, cunning, charismatic and entertaining Fagin.  She portrayed the character in a quiet but powerful way and the audience couldn’t help but like him.

William was marvellous as the Artful Dodger and his charisma and confidence warmed our souls.  His chirpy voice and nature were infectious, and his physical balance, energy, accent and style were outstanding. He grabbed our attention early in the piece when he led the gang in the exuberant Consider Yourself and retained it from then on.

Thomas was a very solid, striking and pompous Mr Bumble, balanced nicely by expressive Muriel as the Widow Corney.  Both these characters made us laugh out loud, while the greedy, selfish coldness of the undertaker ‘family’, played by Alice, Mason, Alice and James, sent a shiver up one's spines. Wilbur played a dignified and steady Mr Brownlow, alongside Daisy as the kind Mrs Bedwin and Henry as Dr Grimwig. Harry was truly frightening as the misogynistic Bill Sikes, bringing out the callousness at every turn.  The villainy of Sikes will haunt many of the audience for quite some time.

Aside from Oliver, Nancy is the emotional heart of the story, and Mabel was impressive in the role, bringing Nancy’s complexity and emotional depth to the forefront.

'Nancy's singing took my breath away and gave me goosebumps!’.   

While she sailed through the raucous Oom-Pah-Pah with easy enthusiasm and dazzling talent, alongside a supporting cast in the aisles, she was also able to build up the feeling and volume in the poignant ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ with a very impressive understanding and maturity displayed in her remarkable vocals.

The musical numbers, a crucial aspect of any production, were executed with precision and glorious energy.  The musical ensemble showcased their vocal talents, bringing the iconic songs to life.  From the opening ‘Food Glorious Food to the rousing chorus of Consider Yourself.  The choreography was effective and added an extra layer of charm – it was delightful to watch the imaginative ‘I’ll do anything’ with umbrellas used for carriage wheels, a moving boat and a train. Who Will Buy by the market sellers was also beautifully sung and looked lovely.

The school's production of "Oliver!" not only showcased the talent within its walls but also served as a testament to the transformative power of live theatre in bringing literature to life.  You genuinely forgot that these were children on stage and many will most probably tread the boards of famous stages in the future!

In conclusion, King’s College Prep's rendition of "Oliver!" was a resounding success, captivating the audience with its heartfelt performances and a palpable sense of passion from everyone involved. The production not only honored the spirit of Dickens' classic tale but also left a lasting impression on all who had the pleasure of witnessing this memorable performance.

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