Oliver! is a musical based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist with music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart.  First opened in the West End in 1960, it has gone on to have multiple productions throughout the world since then, not forgetting the film version from 1968. Oliver! is a musical that even non-musical lovers know!

Oliver! is  alarge undertaking for any theatre company let alone a youth one but KYDS managed to execute it excellently. From the opening of ‘Food, Glorious Food’, the performers showed confidence and enthusiasm that continued throughout the show.

Beau Hens performed the titular role.  He had a lovely singing voice and ‘Where is Love’ stood out as a particular tender moment. He was well supported by Tom Nicoll as Fagin.  Tom’s confidence shone through and had a real command of the stage.  Lola Emson beautifully performed the role of Nancy. She really brought Nancy to life and demonstrated some great acting through song in As Long As He Needs Me.

Other notable performances were Matthew Greed as Mr. Sowerberry, Ben Collins as Mr. Bumble and Charlie Werner as The Artful Dodger.  This is a large company show and every performer gave a solid performance.

The set was simple yet effective and the use of different levels gave it real depth. The use of the street lamps to set the scene really worked and the transformation into Fagin’s Den was very clever.

It was great to have a band, led by Leah Cave, to support the performers and they were very good.  There were some occasions where they seemed a little loud and some of the dialogue was missed but this may have been to some issues there seemed to be with some of the mics.

The choreography was effective and the performers danced well.  It looked well rehearsed and added to the overall show, particularly in ‘I’d Do Anything’, which was excellent.  The only weak area was really the lack of projection and gabbled dialogue of some performers.  It was unfortunate that some dialogue was missed due to this.

Well done to the Director, Bradley Cole and the whole team on producing an excellent show. Overall, the performers should be exceedingly proud of themselves on what they have achieved.

Reviewer: Sarah Miles
Published at TheatreLife.org

Oliver! by Lionel Bart
KYDS Youth Drama Society
Directed by Bradley Cole
Assisted by Alexandra Berriman
Choreographer: Julie Davidge
Musical Director: Leah Cave

It is always a pleasure to be invited to the award winning KYDS productions and meet the wonderful front of house members who all help to keep this company going.  The enthusiasm and dedication of the cast and crew is obvious from the first rise of the curtain. With a full house, the buzz of the audience full of family and friends it is good to know that this youth group has such support from the local community.

From the original Dickens story of the orphan boy, Oliver Twist, Lionel Bart created a wonderful musical classic which has delighted audiences since 1960. From the opening song ‘Food Glorious Food’, we saw the very large group of cast in grey costumes and dirty faces sing their hearts out. The award winning score features many well-loved songs such as ‘Consider Yourself’, ’Who Will Buy’ ‘Oom Pah Pah’ and ‘As Long as He Needs Me’.

New director Bradley Cole has given this show a simple touch using very little scenery and limited Victorian flair, something which I felt was sometimes needed. For me it was just a little too basic but he had huge support from a very strong cast of principals, who helped bring the story to life. A seven piece orchestra led by Musical Director Leah Cave was a great addition.

Eleven year old Beau Hens took on the title role of Oliver. With his sweet expressions and clear singing voice he was totally suitable for the role. His solo ‘Where is love’ brought many a tear to the eye in the audience.  He also had a clear beautifully spoken voice.

Ben Collins and Emily Hatton as Mr Bumble and Widow Corney worked well together and I loved them singing ‘I shall scream’ song.  Ben’s solo ‘Boy for Sale’ was superb. Ben’s voice has matured even more over the last few months and now has a lovely rich sound to add to his wonderful stage presence on stage. Emily also has a delightful voice and confidence on stage.

I loved Mr & Mrs Sowerberry, which was brought to life by Matthew Greed and Millie Sheldrick. Good characterisation here and full of humour and energy. Good direction in this scene.

Next we get to see Oliver meeting The Artful Dodger – cheekily played by Charlie Warner.  Charlie always gives such a fun performance and his smile lights the stage.

On to Fagin’s Den, with Tom Nicoll in the much coveted role of Fagin. His height, demeanour plus his wonderful characterisation of Fagin made me smile and sing along as he and the cast sang ‘You have to pick a pocket or two’. Well done Tom.

Towards the end of Act one, we meet Nancy and her friend Bet. (Lola Emson and Grace Robards). Both these girls were excellent with clear mature singing voices. Lola certainly got everyone singing and with the opening of Act 2 – her Oom Pah Pah was a delight. I also loved her rendition of ‘As Long as he needs me’.

Now enter Bill Sykes singing ‘My Name’. Looking suitably menacingly evil in black with dark makeup, he used his cudgel to great effect putting the fear of God into the boys of Fagin’s den.  Mr Brownlow and Mrs Bedwin (Olly Smith and Daisy Loerns) were suitably elegant and acted well on stage.

Mentions must also be made for the lovely singing voices of Amy Swallow as The Milkmaid, Lana Willis-Gill as The Rose Seller.

The support from the ensemble was as usual very well executed and you could see that everyone on the stage was enjoying themselves. Maybe a little bit more certainty with the choreography in the scenes, with everyone on, might have made it a little more seamless. I also think that the crew would have done better to have pulled the downstage tab across whilst completing set changes, as this did detract from the show a little.

Lighting and sound were suitable for the show as were costumes and makeup,

This was a really feel good musical with excellent performances from the whole cast. It is always a pleasure to see how much the young cast are improving from one show to the next and I look forward to seeing their next pantomime in November.

Christine Davidson
NODA Representative – District 8

North Essex Theatre Guild

Showcase Festival




Lionel Bart

30th June 2018


Oliver is probably one of the best known and best loved of all modern-day musicals, based on Charles Dicken’s book Oliver Twist.

KYDS took the opportunity to amass twenty-six enthusiastic and talented youngsters together with an orchestra of seven musicians to stage this production of Oliver to a large audience who were anticipating a stunning show and were not disappointed.

I have found it difficult to write this adjudication without it being full of superlatives

Front of House

I received the usual warm greeting from the FOH management one has come to expect from KYDS.

The Team produced a twenty-four-page programme with information about, KYDS the youth drama society, life in the Workhouse, and six pages of cast list together with thumbnail sketches of each member of the cast. A list of the scenes and the songs, plus the organizations that have supported KYDS both with this production and throughout the year completed the colourful programme.


The costumes were a delight to study, whether they were made or hired, I didnt have that information, they were just right for the period and the characters. The only ones I would query were the Bow Street runners as they looked like a “Sherlock Homes” character in deer stalkers and capes, not as I would have expected them to dress.

Make up

In the main the make-up was excellent, the Workhouse Children with dirty faces and the same for Fagin’s followers. It’s difficult to age young people, so sometimes its better not to try too hard, Mr Brownlow’s makeup was far too heavy whereas Mr Sowerberry’s was spot on.


The production used the Black Curtains to good effect rather that making the use of scenery this worked extremely well and kept the pace of the production just right.

The use of various levels for many of the scenes worked very well the stage hands were extremely versatile with changes from scene to scene conducted at a rip-roaring pace.

The first Workhouse Scene in particular with lots of tables and benches was struck in what seemed a matter of seconds.


A delightful array of properties was on view from food to Fagin’s handkerchiefs to the knifegrinders wheel. A tremendous amount of work had gone into making and sourcing all of these. I loved the cat in the Bumbles scene it should have had a cast credit in the programme.


The lighting ranged from murky workhouse, to bright sunlight, and then a more sinister lighting for Fagins’s den. It was also used to great effect to represent to mood of the piece, whether happy moments or sad ones.


I was delighted that the orchestra didn’t overpower the singers as sometimeshappens the sound levels were just right, so the audience could hear every word being said or sung.

There were a couple of strange noises of crackling, a minor technical problem I suspect.

Well done.


Oliver – Beau Hens

What a talent this young man has no only has he a great singing voice, but a great stage presence, the part of Oliver requires the “Ah! Factor” but Beau gave the part more thanthat, he gave us the cheekiness, the aggressive side when Noah was talking about Oliver’smother, (the fight with Noah was superb), and the sad side of Oliver.

Beau not only had the Ah! Factor but the Wow factor as well.

Artful Dodger – Charlie Warner

Another stunning performance from a young actor full of character, one of Fagin’s men through and through but with a soft spot for Oliver, Charlie gave the part depth, both in his singing and acting.

Fagin – Tom Nicoll

A gem of a part for any actor and Tom took full advantage of the opportunity to play Fagin. Tom has the advantage of being tall, in fact very tall, and he dominated his gang of robbers, he also controlled the stage and moved around as though he owned it, which I supposed he did!

His songs were a delight to listen too not only did he sing them very well but also acted them out as well.

We felt sorry for Fagin in the last scene with him all alone having lost his gang and singing“Reviewing the Situation”

This was a great performance well done.

Bill Sykes – Tom Hennessey

The real villain of the piece a nasty piece of work, Tom looked the part, but I think he needed to be more aggression in his manner not in movement, which was just right, but with his voice.

Nancy – Lola Emson

Lola played Nancy to the full, a very strong character portraying bags of energy making full use of her powerful singing voice, but still having the gentle touch when dealing with Oliver and her love for Bill.

Great power and energy singing Oom Pah Pah” and the gentle voice in “As Long as He Needs Me” was a joy to listen to.

Mr Bumble – Ben Collins

Suitably padded out to be the Mr Bumble that we expect, Ben gave a terrific performance of self-assumed power dominating the children in his care, but having a more gentle manner toward Widow Corney.

A great singing voice and good stage presence.

Widow Corney – Emily Hatton

Different from the traditional way she is played Emily gave the character a more gentle but devious slant on Widow Corney making up to Mr Bumble then dominating him when married to him.

When not playing the Widow, Emily was the Strawberry seller and part of the Ensemble Another terrific performance from a young actor.

Mr & Mrs Sowerberry Matthew Greed & Millie Sheldrick

These two young actors worked as a pair of rather slimy undertakers Mr Sowerberry rather dominated by his wife but with an eye for a good cheap deal in having Oliver working forhim Mrs Stowerberry very much the boss in the household, their song “Its Your Funeral”was a work of art. Both gave very mature performances.

Charlotte – Emily Upton

Emily had a lot of fun with Mrs Sowerberry, trying to put Oliver in the coffin this was a terrific piece of business very carefully choreographed and carried out, Emily brought her character to life

Noah/ Charley – Marcus Renshaw

A little “tough guy” or so he thought until he came up against Oliver, these two gave us one hell of a fight Marcus was loud strong and arrogant as Noah played him just how it should be played

Bet – Grace Robards

Wonderful singing and dancing along side Nancy, full of life and energy. Grace gave Bet a life of her own, I loved her singing with Nancy they complement each other so well.

Mrs Bedwin – Daisy Loerns

Mr Brownlows Housekeeper a pity we only saw this character for just one scene but Daisy gave a lovely portrayal of the caring member of Mr Brownlows household. This was a very well judged piece of acting.

Doctor Grimwig – Steven Hyde

Just one short scene for Doctor Grimwig but Steven made the most of it, very much the caring doctor.

Mr Brownlow – Olly Smith

Olly gave us the “kind old gentleman” that Mr Brownlow was, who turns out to be OliversGrandfather. Olly had the right stance and voice for the character he was playing, and created a real passion for Oliver, but as I have already mentioned his make-up was too strong

The Street Sellers – Emily Hatton, Amy Swallow, Lana Willis-Gill and Ben Collins

All gave us a glorious rendition on “Who Will Buy” especially the stunning voice of Lana the Rose Seller.

The Ensemble and Old Sally, Old Lady and the Bow Street Runners

The entire cast worked as one moving seamlessly from one character to another and from scene to scene without a hitch

It was a joy to watch.

The Band – Leah Cave (Musical Director)

It great to hear and be able to see the players so often these day the musicians are hidden away or taped music is used. The orchestra really added the overall enjoyment of the show.

Production – Bradley Cole, Director, Alexandra Berriman Assistant Director and Production Manager and Julie Davidge, Choreographer.

Congratulations to the Director and all the production team, KYDS created a performance that was a joy to watch, fast moving high powered dance routines not forgetting the great curtain call.

A tremendous amount of work from a very talented production team gave the audience on Saturday evening a show worth seeing, they enjoyed it and so did I

Michael Poole