SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

31/10/2009 - 21/11/2009

Production Details


"the atmosphere of a London Christmas, brimming with life, memorable music and indelible characters…a feast for the eyes and ears" — The Guardian

Auckland Theatre Company’s Oliver! at SKYCITY Theatre this November is the perfect Christmas treat for the whole family.

With over 35 performers including Mark Hadlow, Jennifer Ward Lealand, Sophia Hawthorne, Helen Medlyn and introducing Conrad Edwards and Mitchell Hageman as Oliver, this dazzling new production of the much-loved musical vividly brings to life Dickens’ timeless characters with its ever-popular story of the boy who asked for more.

The sensational sing-along show is full of Lionel Bart’s irresistible songs including Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two, I’d Do Anything, Oom Pah Pah, As Long As He Needs Me and many more.

"Oliver! is first-rate musical entertainment for the entire family" —New York Times

Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist, Oliver! chronicles the adventures of the orphaned boy Oliver as he escapes his bleak workhouse existence, journeys to London, and is taken in by a gang of apprentice pickpockets working for master thief Fagin while learning their trade. When Oliver is falsely accused of exposing the gang by the frightening Bill Sikes, he begins to realize he has more friends than he thought.

Composer Lionel Bart, hailed by Andrew Lloyd Webber as "the father of the modern British musical," debuted Oliver! in London in 1960, the first time the story had ever been told in a musical format. It was an instant hit, and after transferring to New York in 1963, it became Broadway’s longest-running British musical to date.

Oliver! was nominated for 10 Tony awards and won three: Best Composer & Lyricist; Best Conductor & Musical Director; and Best Scenic Designer.

The recent West End revival produced by Cameron Mackintosh and starring Rowan Atkinson as Fagin set a new record for advance ticket sales to a musical, helped along in no small part by the televised search for Nancy and Oliver in the show I Would Do Anything which featured Andrew Lloyd Webber as chief talent scout.

Auckland Theatre Company’s search for the role of Oliver began with an open audition in May and then a series of call backs to whittle down the hopefuls to the best two young actor, singer and dancers Auckland had to offer. By co-incidence the two successful auditionees are best friends, Conrad Edwards and Mitchell Edwards who sit beside each other in the same class at Kristin School.

Returning to the helm to create the richly theatrical world of Dickensian London at Christmas are the doyens of New Zealand theatre, director Raymond Hawthorne and designer Tracy Grant Lord. With an international theatre career spanning a century between them, the pair are relishing the opportunity to stage the biggest show in Auckland Theatre Company’s history.

"Oliver! is a highly theatrical show with a great and emotional story, toe-toe tapping songs and evocative settings. It’s a total treat for a creative team to work on" says Hawthorne.

"The show is so big half of Auckland Theatre Company’s administration office is being converted into a costume work room and the rehearsal schedule is 22 pages long!" he adds with a grin.

The perfect time to introduce your kids to a life of crime.
Tickets available from ticketek, 0800 ticketek (842 538) or www.atc.co.nz 

Auckland, SKYCITY Theatre,
Previews:  29 – 30 Oct,
Opening Night:  31 Oct,
Season:  2 – 21 Nov,
Mon (2 Nov only) – Wed, 6.30pm
Thur – Sat, 8pm
Sun Afternoons, 4pm
Sat Matinee, 14 and 21 Nov 2pm

Book: 0800 TICKETEK or www.atc.co.nz

Oliver — Mitchell Hageman or Conrad Edwards
Fagin — Mark Hadlow
Nancy — Sophia Hawthorne
Mrs Sowerberry / Mrs Bedwin — Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Mrs Corney — Helen Medlyn
Bill Sikes — Michael Lawrence
Bet — Zoe Stevens
Artful Dodger — Greg Padoa
Mr Bumble — Andrew Grainger
Mr Brownlow / Governor — David Aston
Chorus — Mike Edward, Peter Daube, Edward Peni, Cameron Douglas, Jeremy Birchall, Glen Pickering, Russell Pickering, Jonathan Hodge, Keith Adams, Elizabeth Tierney, Colleen Davis, Tizane McEvoy, Sia Trokenheim, Hera Dunleavy, Catherine Reaburn
Gang Leaders — Thomas Webster, Timothy Wilde, Taylor Matthews, Paddy Leishman
Charles Gang — Dylan Holmes, Oscar Jones, William King, Niel Kulkarni, Harry Legget, Charlie Verberne
Dickens Gang — Kieran Bevan, James Collyer, Ross Lewis, Jake McGregor, Fin McLachlan, Sam Verlinden

Keys — John Gibson
Violin — Coralie Usmani
Cello — Robin Snape
Bass — Matt Shanks
Trumpet — Kingsley Melhuish
Trombone/Euphonium — Alistair McMillan
French Horn — Jillian Christoff
Flute/Piccolo/Recorder — Luca Manghi
Drums/Percussion — Chris O'Connor

Direction — Raymond Hawthorne
Set & Costume Design — Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Design — David Eversfield
Musical Direction — John Gibson
Choreography — Vicky Haughton

Special thanks to Royal New Zealand Ballet for support of the production with costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson

Production Manager — Mark Gosling
Technical Manager — Bonnie Burrill
Rehearsal Assistant Stage Manager — Gabrielle Rhodes
Rehearsal Pianist — Terence Penk
Child Supervisor — Chris Bevan
Intern Observing Stage Manager — Jade Turall
Assistant Lighting Designer — Brendan Albrey
Properties Master — Bec Ehlers
Set Construction — 2 Construct

Senior Stage Manager — Fern Christie
Assistant Stage Manager — Mitchell Turei
Sound Engineer — Mike Clarkin
Sound Technician — Laura Menzies
Lighting Operator — Robert Hunte
Follow Spot Operators — Dominic Halpin & Theo Gibson
Flyman — TJ Haunui
Revolve Operator — Nick Rowland
Stage Hand — Paul Nicoll
Dresser — Sara Taylor
Wardrobe Maintenance — Nicola Blackman
Venue Technician — Jesse Abernathy

Wardrobe Supervisor — Judith Crozier
Cutter — Yvonne van Baardwijk  
Cutter & Wardrobe Assistant — Sara Kolijn
Key Machinist — Kathy Rudd
Machinists — Gillian Westerhof, Carmel Donnelly
Artistic Finisher & Dyer — Paula Collier
Students from UNITEC School of Performing and Screen Arts — Trish Dennis, Christine Fletcher, Linh Pham, Mei Wang

Oliver! You just about couldn’t ask for more

Review by Janet McAllister 02nd Nov 2009

Musical is a lavish, and successful, spread of musicians, set, actors and costumes

The Auckland Theatre Company have obviously lavished on the musical Oliver! the sort of time, money and effort that Oliver the hungry orphan can only dream of. The musicians; the revolving set; the abundance of actors continually changing their elaborate costumes – all add up to an impressive spectacle.

Virtually all the performers live up to these high production values, singing the deservedly famous melodies with warmth and verve. There’s never a dull moment – the songs don’t interfere with the action. Director Raymond Hawthorne, aided by choreographer Vicky Haughton, very effectively marshals all 35 players across the stage. The particularly able chorus depict busy Dickensian vitality in processions of fruit-sellers and funerals, while their pretty tableaux help slow the pace for quieter moments. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Sufficiently magnificent

Review by Nik Smythe 01st Nov 2009

This review has been written on the assumption the story is well known and therefore mentioning key events in the plot ought not spoil the experience for anyone reading it first.  If you plan to see it and have somehow got this far in life without knowing the story then I guess you ought to wait to read it after you’ve been.

Under the expert direction of New Zealand theatre pioneer and veteran Mr Raymond Hawthorne, upon a strikingly impressive and versatile Victorian Gothic set designed by Tracy Grant Lord, some fifty professional actors aged from nine to comparatively ancient take us all on a memorable journey back to the bleak subsistence of working class London in the time of Charles Dickens.

In the title role on opening night twelve year old Conrad Edwards* shows remarkable showmanship; honest innocence of character combined with excellent singing and dancing.  Winning the crowd’s heart once and for all with the seminal lullaby-anthem ‘Where is Love’, the occasional wobbly tone just adds to his charm, and he always nails the end notes where it really counts.

The formidable coupling of Andrew Grainger’s Beadle Bumble and Helen Medlyn’s Widow Corney provide the most recognisably Dickensian personifications of self-importance, corruption and greed in authority figures.  With Bumble’s unfounded arrogance and Corney’s false benevolence, they ultimately deserve each other.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand flexes her versatile character skills first as the awfully unpleasant shrew Mrs. Sowerberry – wife of even more awful Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker (Keith Adams) working under the most awful of all Noah Claypole (Cameron Douglas), and in act two as the gentle and dignified noblewoman Mrs. Bedwin. 

Mark Hadlow’s Fagin ticks all the right technical boxes, clearly enjoying himself whilst falling short of truly shining in one of musical theatre’s most coveted and complex roles.  Similarly, Michael Lawrence doesn’t seem to be making the most of his role as head villain Bill Sikes for some reason; the sinister charm the character requires – and which Lawrence is certainly capable of – was all but absent on opening night.

Sophia Hawthorne goes much further with relishing her portrayal of Nancy, the stroppy lass with a compassionate soul and tragically loyal co-dependent lover of Sikes.  Completely dispelling any notion of nepotism, the director’s daughter is possibly the best-cast cast member, with one of the strongest singing voices to boot. 

Greg Padoa also has a lot of fun with his happy-go-lucky Artful Dodger.  The epitome of below-working class pride, he makes vagrant thievery look more like a lifestyle choice than the tragic plight of society’s unwanted.  By contrast, David Aston’s man-of-means Mr. Brownlow, the well-to-do gentleman who takes Oliver under his wing to make amends after wrongly accusing him theft, is more weighed down with the concerns of his world.  Whilst by no means a misery-guts, the responsibility that accompanies wealth makes him somewhat less carefree than the vagabonds at the opposite end of the class ladder.

Across the board the players are more or less excellent, including the consummately solid chorus and especially the young lads who comprise the orphanage inmates, and later Fagin’s band of thieves.  If a heroic tale is only as good as its villain, in a large-scale musical this responsibility is surpassed only by the chorus.  In this instance, the result is 90% positive; exemplary song and dance skills pervade one of the largest casts I’ve personally ever witnessed in professional theatre. 

A spectacular highlight is the richly evocative set design by Tracy Grant Lord, also credited for the extensive and eclectic costume design.  The grim despair suggested by the sizeable, frequently shifting sooty black structures is enhanced under the extreme mood lighting as designed by David Eversfield.

One area leaving something to be desired is the un-dynamic stunt fighting, essentially walked through and adding a slightly amateur tinge to otherwise brilliant technical staging.

Details on the original story and subsequent production history of one of Charles Dickens’ first and best tales can be easily referenced on Wikipedia and IMDb.  Curious factoids: over 22 direct screen adaptations plus any number of conceptually related productions, sequels and cameo appearances.  The famous 1968 screen version of this very musical has, to date, been the only G-rated film ever to win Best Picture at the Oscars. 

Curious to note Dickens, who ostensibly abhorred class separatism, wrote a tale about a boy who grows up in the most desperately grim conditions, malnourished and uneducated, yet is faultlessly respectful, polite and well spoken, apparently due to his unknown fine breeding.  The extraordinary insight and kindness of the aristocratic Mr. Brownlow seems out of place in his time.  A number of important questions such as Oliver’s paternity and why his mother had run away while she was pregnant with him are barely if at all discussed. 

But the true purpose of Dickens’s Oliver Twist (and more so Bart’s Oliver!) – whilst accurately reflecting the suffering of the lowly British sub-classes in the early 18th century – is the catharsis effected by escapist fantasy, and as such it hits the spot.

The opus of Lionel Bart’s career (can anyone name another show he wrote without checking Wikipedia?) has all the makings of a milestone in the large-scale classic musical production history of the venerable ATC; sufficiently magnificent to assuage my usual dismay as to why we habitually pass over our own stories for these oft-reproduced foreign works.

*The role of Oliver is shared on alternate nights with Mitchell Hageman (as are the younger chorus members).  Anyone who sees this show on one of his nights is invited to add comments on Hageman’s performance. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


nik smythe November 1st, 2009

I can't believe I omitted to mention the outstanding orchestra and their impeccable performance of the arrangements and musical direction of John Gibson.  Obviously a vital key to any musical, they evidently underpinned the action so seamlessly that you might even forget they were there ...

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council