Review: Hathersage Players’ version of Oliver! is the pick of the bunch

Hathersage Players production of Oliver!
Hathersage Players production of Oliver!
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You’ve gotta pick or pocket or two if you want to see Oliver! in Hathersage this week because beg, borrow or steal are the only options to get your hands on a ticket to this sell-out production.

Just about everyone from the village seems to be either on stage or in the audience at the memorial hall where this popular musical about workhouse kids and young pickpockets runs until Saturday, November 26.

With a cast of more than 60, it’s got to be one of the biggest productions that Hathersage Players have staged - and one of the best.

The children play the workhouse inmates beautifully, marching down the aisle in drab clothes. Their opening number Food Glorious Food is delightful with adults carrying mouth-watering platters of tempting fare weaving through the rows of youngsters.

Aptly named Ollie Spittlehouse is one of the best Olivers that I have seen in an amateur performance with spot-on singing in Where is Love?, engaging well with fellow cast members and the tugging the heart-strings of the audience.

Giacamo Barile is the epitome of the confident, streetwise Artful Dodger who takes Oliver under his wing.

And Neil Murphy impresses as the pickpocketing gang mentor Fagin who is outwardly friendly but shows a mean streak when he suspects Oliver has seen his secret stash of cash.

The shining star of the show is Krystina Robinson, playing Nancy, whose mesmerising singing in songs such as Oom Pah Pah and As Long As He Needs Me would rival that of a professional. Her beautiful, rich voice is complemented by impressive acting, making her a name to watch out for in the future.

Tom Longden gives a convincing performance as scowling arch villain Bill Sykes, who bludgeons his girlfriend Nancy to death and then meets his maker in a hail of gunfire.

Well-judged comic performances from Peter Miles as the pompous beadle Mr Bumble and Debbie Michaels as the long-suffering Widow Corney bring light relief to the production.

Scene-shifters are kept busy ferrying furniture on and off stage and the change of locations is depicted by back-projected images which resemble well-crafted drawings.

Oiver! is directed by Jane Litherland with musical direction by Jenny Armstrong and choreography by Emma Edge and Isobel Wedgwood assisted by Annie Allen and Krystina Robinson.