Book, Music & Lyrics: Lionel Bart. PRIMA (Pine Rivers Musical Association Inc., @ Holy Spirit Auditorium, Bray Park, Qld. Director: Melanie Evans. Music Director: Terry Million. Choreographer: Shelley Marshall. Oct 19 – 27, 2012.

Charles Dickens Oliver Twist is one of the great British novels and Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation of it is one of the great British musicals. PRIMA’s production ticked all the right boxes, with Bart’s score the strength of the performance.

Michael Forman was a very impressive Fagin, bringing out the Jewishness of the character, dancing impishly, and singing the role with conviction. His “Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Reviewing the Situation” were a delight.

Chantelle Hill was a lusty, busty Nancye who delivered the show’s most-famous ballad and its reprise, “As Long As He Needs Me” in true diva style.

One couldn’t ask for a better Mr. Bumble than that created by Colin Simpson who undoubtedly had the best voice in the show.

Clayton Ellis as Oliver looked appropriately angelic and sang in a reedy-thin boy-soprano like every other Oliver I’ve ever seen.

The chorus also sang well (“Consider Yourself” was particularly good) but this London Town seemed to be inhabited by mostly serving wenches and young girls with a notable absence of men and boys.

This was the first community theatre production I had seen where every performer in the cast, including the kids, had their own microphone. It meant there was no trouble in hearing everything, but unfortunately the audio mix was frequently muffled and muddy, and at times in the fight scenes, distorted. Terry Million’s musical direction was pacy, and Shelley Marshall’s dance routines perfunctory.

Still, despite the flaws, it was Bart’s classic songs that carried the day and sent the audience out smiling.

Peter Pinne

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