Theatre & Dance
Jack Bannon as Dodger
Rip-roaring musical fun featuring a talented and enthusiastic cast from the youth arts courses at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Dodger! runs at The Playhouse, Norwich, until Saturday, 4 August, 2007.
If you ever wondered about the ongoing twists in Oliver's life - many of the answers can be found in Dodger!, this summer's offering from the Youth Theatre Company of the Norwich Theatre Royal.
Set seven years after the end of Oliver, we find the orphan boy who once asked for 'more' now living a toff's life with his grandfather. Dodger, somewhat unsurprisingly, had landed himself in jail.
What follows in this enthusiastic and well-crafted production is a rip-roaring musical adventure as Oliver tries to help his old associate to a better life and let them both put to rest the skeletons of their past – despite those involved having other ideas.
Snitchey and Craggs
Dodger (Jack Bannon) and Oliver (Tom Cox) may have landed the lead roles, but it's crooked lawyers Snitchey and Craggs (Tom Hopkins and David Green) who steal this show.
Delightful comic timing, with a nod towards slap-stick humour, and a skillful delivery of their characters ensure this crooked duo become the bad guys we love to hate.
Teamed with them to try and ensure Dodger's demise are Jarber (Daniel Herrick) and his wife (Rebecca Molloy).
Herrick as the hen-pecked husband and hapless jailor has some of the best 'asides' in the script and is obviously loving every moment.
Rebecca Molloy is terrifying as the Mrs Jarber. As the controlling and rich hungry wife from hell – she reminded me of the young Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch Of The West in the Wizard Of Oz. Yes, she's that nasty.
Dodger and Bet
Becky Hadley is Bet, the long-suffering girlfriend of Dodger. Singing beautifully, Hadley delivers a character you can believe in.
Bet carries passion, pain and refuses to let the hand of fate come between her and her man.
The annual summer show, directed and written by David Lambert, is always a logistical nightmare yet is a constant success.
With a supporting cast of more than 300 young people and, due to the Theatre Royal's refurbishment, a new venue to contend with – the pressure has really been on to deliver the goods this year – and that's exactly what David and his team have done.
The smaller venue at The Playhouse means this show needs to be carried on the quality of the acting. The cast can't hide behind the usual audience distractions of flying scenery and big sets – and as such, the production is all the stronger for it.
Rather than simply do what's worked before, a new venue has meant a serious re-think in the staging and this has given things a fresh feel. The show looks beautiful with detailed costumes, good lighting design and a lovely touch in using a revolving set.
My only criticism is that the music and choreography echoes too many of the previous summer shows from the Theatre Royal arts courses.
Whilst signature dance routines and musical underscoring can sometimes be a good thing, when you see these shows year-on-year, you can't help but notice the repetition.
I'm not saying that it's bad - the music (by Andrew Fletcher) is a challenging score for the cast that really pushes their vocal skills - but there's now a predictability to these annual summer shows that puts them in jeopardy of being staid.
Having watched many of the arts courses productions over the years, as stalwarts of the company have moved away from the county to follow their theatrical dreams, it's great to see so much new potential coming through the ranks.
We all know that Norfolk is a hotbed of talent – long may it continue.
Dodger! runs at the Norwich Playhouse until Saturday, 4 August, 2007.
last updated: 01/08/07