Joe Russell and the Now Productions team go from strength to strength. This cast was well chosen and adaptive. They had loads of energy and brought some new slants to the well known characters, mostly by teasing out their comic side. The cast sang lustily in both solos and ensemble pieces, and although the taped music was often loud, no voices were overpowered by it. That, and a very effective sound system, made for a most successful musical experience for the large and enthusiastic audience.
The action was played in a simple and functional set, featuring a solid scaffolding bridge-cum-street and a series of minor props and cut-away flats. The cast and crew were discreet and efficient in all of the scene changes.
Of the two casts, I saw the Custard cast and was most impressed with their surety and confidence.
Alyssa Faranda was charming in the title role. She played Oliver, rightly, as an innocent among rogues, and made great impact with her true, strong voice. She was especially moving in the song Where Is Love?
Kane Mobbs impressed as a very agile and entertaining Fagin. He drew out considerably more humour than is often the case with the character, and it worked very well. His characterisation and cheeky energy were major strengths.
Kyle Mobbs was marvellous as the Artful Dodger. His chirpy voice and nature were infectious and his physical balance 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. Connor Russell was a very solid and striking Mr Bumble, balanced nicely by Ava Cannard as the Widow Corney, while Alex Richardson played a dignified and steady Mr Brownlow. Bryce Young was truly frightening as the misogynistic Bill Sikes, bringing out the callousness at every turn.
Aside from Oliver, Nancy is the emotional heart of the story, and Maisy Jo Russell was splendid in the role. She showed considerable subtlety as she developed the character. Her singing demonstrated that too. While she sailed through the rollicking Oom-Pah-Pah with easy enthusiasm, she built up the feeling and volume of As Long As He Needs Me with a very impressive understanding and maturity.
The ensemble ably supported the action in acting, singing and movement. Among others, the choreography in Consider Yourself was a particularly good example of that. And I must mention how affecting it was to hear and see Who Will Buy by the market sellers and Oliver. It was a quiet and pensive break from the otherwise hectic pace of much of the show.
There was lots to like about this production. All credit to Joe Russell, his cast and crew.