Review: Oliver! by York Light Opera Company
Venue: York Theatre Royal, March 5
If I was Reuben Lally’s mum, I would have started sobbing uncontrollably the moment he stepped on stage and not stopped until they carried me out in a wheelbarrow at the curtain call. In fact, I’d probably still be honking and sniffing now like a demented goose with adenoid issues.
Thankfully (for him, most of all) we’re not related, but it didn’t stop me tearing up every time he sang in York Light Opera Company’s peppy production of Lionel Bart’s cockney classic, Oliver!
Taking on a title role in your first ever stage performance is quite a feat, but when you’re only eight years old, it’s nigh on heroic. But Reuben, who lives in Gilling East, near Ampleforth, where he’s in Year 4 (I know, he’s so young he’s probably still got all his baby teeth) at St Benedict’s Primary, appeared to take it all in his raggy-trousered stride.
His renditions of Where Is Love? and Who Will Buy? were note perfect; his voice clear, precise and affecting as he left a packed house collectively searching for a tissue.
The central role in Oliver! doesn’t call for Oscar-worthy acting, but the Artful Dodger and Fagin need more than a good set of pipes to make their mark. Josh Benson, who played Dodger at the Grand Opera House in 2009 and has numerous theatre, TV and film credits to his name, acted his stripy mismatched socks off as the artful young pickpocket; his irresistible grin and immaculate comic timing making him a shoo-in for the lead role in the James Corden biopic (it will happen, if only in my fevered imagination).
And Rory Mulvihill, who has enjoyed roles in more than 70 shows (including both Jesus and Satan in separate York Mystery Plays), gave his Fagin a softer, more playful tone, leaving the audience chortling merrily and wishing only good things for this unrepentant yet likeable rogue.
Special mention must also go to John Hall and Rosy Rowley, who elevated the often forgettable Mr Bumble and Widow Corney with well-delivered humour and verve; Alexa Chaplin, who made for a vibrant Nancy; and director Martyn Knight, who imbued his cast with the confidence to have an absolute ball on stage.
- Oliver! is on at York Theatre Royal until Saturday, March 16
- Tickets are priced between £3 and £24 – to book go to the Theatre Royal website