REVIEW: ‘Oliver’ at Unity College, Burnley

UNITY College present "Oliver" the musical.
UNITY College present "Oliver" the musical.

“CONSIDER Yourself” ... top of the class Mr Hindle and pupils of Unity College, Burnley.

For last week they demonstrated superbly why this school has specialist arts status when they presented the hugely enjoyable musical “Oliver”.

It was a sell-out for all five performances and, after going along to the opening night and collecting my tickets from the school’s very own box office, I could see why.

This was real musical theatre expertly executed by a cast of pupils from all year groups.

It had all the meaning of Dickens’s novel “Oliver Twist” and the pizazz of Lionel Bart’s long-running musical which later became a blockbuster film.

It even had a good luck message in the programme from the original Oliver, actor Mark Lester, who won the hearts of a nation when his cherubic looks first took to the stage.

Burnley’s own Oliver Twist, Nathan Gerrard, was just as endearing and won the hearts of the first-night audience. And he was in good company with a cast of principals who really took their characters to heart, and a chorus line full of enthusiasm.

The stage was superb, very, very atmospheric and impressive, the costumes were top drawer and this was quite rightly heralded as Unity’s most ambitious production to date.

I know drama teacher Philip (Pip) Hindle, who produced, directed and choreographed the production, must have been very proud of his young team of budding actors and singers.

Every last one of the crew and cast deserve praise for the hard work that had evidently gone into the show and the principals were outstanding. The singing voices of Charlie Hall and Rebecca Swindells who played Nancy and her friend Bet, stood out.

While the boys, who had the toughest characterisations in their roles, were tremendous. Very well done to Max Preston who fabulously threw himself into the role of Fagin, never once coming out of character, and it is not an easy role to play. Brandon Incles was a great Bill Sykes, really frightening and convincing, and Jack Barnett was a splendid Mr Bumble the cold-hearted workhouse boss. Konnor Sisson was just right as the Artful Dodger, very likeable. Well done too Bradley Ellor for his deadpan interpretation of undertaker Henry Sowerberry and Alice Butterfield as his wife. The scene in the undertaker’s parlour was one of my favourites.

The musical numbers were grand and Fagin’s “Reviewing the Situation” was brilliant as he skulked about the stage. In fact all the songs in “Oliver” were memorable the Unity College way.

Margaret Parsons