Always leave them wanting more

Southern Light Opera Company procuction of Oliver!. Pic: Comp
Southern Light Opera Company procuction of Oliver!. Pic: Comp
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IT’S a staple of the amateur scene, always guaranteed to pull in a good audience, little wonder then that the city’s Southern Light Opera Company, which has been entertaining theatre-goers since 1897, has eschewed the traditional operetta in favour of Lionel Bart’s popular musical Oliver! at The King’s next week.

With a cast of 120 children and 60 adults, it’s certainly going to be a busy affair. The production stars Alex Morrison as the boy who asked for more. And if Morrison looks familiar, it could be because his first break came last year when he was cast alongside Jason Donovan in Calamity Jane at The Playhouse.

Taking a break from rehearsals, the 11-year-old says, “I can’t wait to get on stage at the King’s. Rehearsals have been great fun.”

Based on Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel, Oliver! tells the story of the orphan who dared to ask for more gruel. After running away from the workhouse, the urchin heads to London where he befriends The Artful Dodger and soon finds himself being trained to pick pockets for villainous Fagin.

Originally produced in 1960, Oliver! ran in the West End for 2618 performances. It transferred to Broadway in 1963 where it ran for 774 performances. Most know it, however, from director Carol Reed’s multi-Oscar-winning 1968 film adaptation, starring Mark Lester as Oliver, Jack Wild as Dodger and Ron Moody as Fagin.

Expect all the old favourite numbers, such as Food Glorious Food, Oliver, Consider Yourself, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two, and I’d Do Anything.

Director Andy Johnston says, “Dickens created such a brilliant cast of memorable characters and that allied with Lionel Bart’s unforgettable music is pure gold dust.

“The last half hour of Act 1 – the scenes with Fagin, Nancy, Bet and the Gang – is probably one of the greatest scenes in musical theatre. The great songs just keep on coming – Pick A Pocket, It’s a Fine Life, I’d Do Anything, Be Back Soon – sometimes with only a few lines of dialogue in between.

“And that’s before you even consider classics such as As Long As He Needs Me and Reviewing The Situation.”

He adds, “Another great delight of working on Oliver! has been working with such a large cast of youngsters.

“There are more than 140 young people taking part in this show – many of whom have never appeared on stage before. Hopefully they will all enjoy the experience and become the Southern light of the future.”

Oliver!, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 3-7 March, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £15-£19, 0131-529 6000