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Oliver! glorious Oliver! - a Sheffield show with heart

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No doubt you already Consider Yourself at home with Oliver! - the oh-so familiar musical that appears on our TV screens most Christmases.

What could be novel about another staging of this oft-performed classic, over half a century on from its 1960 West End premiere?

The Crucible’s barnstorming, bawdy, brilliant new show manages it.

Those singalong Lionel Bart songs, and characters you thought you knew so well?

All are given fresh humour, humanity, warmth and emotion by a superlative cast of heart-achingly adorable youngsters and acting pros - most notably Tom Edden as Fagin and Hayley Gallivan as Nancy.

Dazzling set-pieces, a sliding stage design, and masterfully-choreographed whirling dance are so action-packed in the round it’s hard to know where to look.

At the same time the feel is darker from the very first scene, when Oliver’s dying mother, her gowns bloodied from childbirth, leaves our young hero as a babe on the workhouse step.

Crystal clear diction from everyone on the cast enables new understanding to be gleaned from those lyrics you thought you knew by rote.

When Nancy, her lip burst open by a backhander from Bill Sikes, sings As Long As He Needs Me, it’s not with the blind devotion of the 1968 film. It’s with a heartbreaking, knowing acceptance of the bitter fate she faces at the hands of a brutally violent man.

Deafening cheers and a standing ovation were proof: Oliver! is yet another triumph for Sheffield Theatres’ artistic director, Daniel Evans, its director.

Do Anything to see it, before January 25 next year.

By Sarah Crabtree

 

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