There may not have been any bottles of champagne broken against steel hulls but Wellington Operatic Society’s production of ‘Oliver’ was launched from the slipway in fine style at Wellington Arts Centre in Eight Acre Lane this week.
Nearly one hundred keen singers and performers were there at a party prior to the process of auditions, casting and rehearsals, all leading to a week of performances at the Wellesley in May. Director John Walker, Choreographer Charlie Evans and Musical Director Hilary Wickham are on the lookout for potential stars to lead the cast in this local revival of Lionel Bart’s famous musical, the first of Dickens’ novels to be staged and in production in the UK and around the world almost continuously since 1960.
The story, loosely based on Charles Dickens’ novel, ‘Oliver Twist’, features celebrated musical numbers such as ‘Food, Glorious Food’, ‘Consider Yourself’ and ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’. A host of adult roles – pickpockets’ conniving coach Fagin, brutal criminal Bill Sikes and his ill-treated, soft-hearted girlfriend Nancy among them – are genuinely inviting for performers, as are roles for children – Oliver himself and the Artful Dodger are the most famous. And the show needs a large supporting cast of 19th century London lowlife to provide seedy but colourful backing.
John Walker and Hilary Wickham gave members of the society a taste of what was to come at the party in taking them through some of the familiar musical numbers in the show – in between more social eating and drinking. To find and cast suitable children, a workshop will be held at The Arts Centre on Sunday 20 January from 2pm to 5pm where young performers can simply turn up to hear about the musical and sample some of the numbers.
The Operatic Society’s most recent productions last year – ‘Summer Holiday’ and ‘Diamond Gems’ – were both hugely popular sell-outs; ‘Oliver’ is likely to be the same. The town can look forward to a musical and dramatic treat.
Words & photos: Gill Paltridge