WINNER - Best Musical (Manchester Evening News Opera Cup)
27th April - 4th May 1968
Production Officials
Director Derek Taylor
Musical Director J. Arnold Thornton
Oliver Christopher Waites
Mr Bumble Alan Lee
Widow Corney Audrey Raistrick
Mr Sowerberry Jack Bateson
Mrs Sowerberry Joyce Richardson
Charlotte Christine Roberts
Noah Claypole Alan Brockbank
Artful Dodger Don Howcroft
Fagin Arnold Knowles
Nancy Nora Holder
Bet Glenys Poole
Mr Brownlow Ernest Pollitt
Bill Sykes David Greenhalgh
Mrs Bedwin Joyce Knowles
Dr Grimwig Martin Wood
Old Sally Brenda Dixon
Rose seller Susan C. Briggs
Milkmaid Irene Taylor
Strawberry seller Joyce Foster
Knife Grinder William A. Livesey
Long song seller Robin Foster
Children's Chorus
Mark Bradburn, David Roscoe, Neville Roscoe, Philip Waterworth, Stephen Witton, Yvonne Birchall, Christine Bradburn, Andrew Knowles, John Halliwell, Lyn Ashurst, Susan Sharples, Linda Hardcastle, Philip Brockbank, Ian Whittaker, Peter Moss, Peter Mason, Mark Unsworth, Dorothy Bramwell, Martin Cummings, Keir Baxter, Elaine Orrell, Janet Lowe, Marshall Foster
Adult Chorus
Barbara Ainsworth, Julia Aldred, Rene Barlow, Lyndene Brown, Glenys Collinson, Dorothy Holt, Kathleen Kay, Bronwen Lee, Rae Mills, Stella Neary, Brenda Orrell, Lorraine Parker, Denise Potts, Alex Schofield, Mary Whittaker, Elizabeth Williams, Gordon Bustard, Dennis J. Hamer, Harry Lee, Sturgess Mills, Glyn Neary, Joseph P. Waites
  • Bolton Evening News Review
  • Manchester Evening News Review
Walmsley Church Amateur Operatic Society has gone to town with Oliver! And the town certainly ought to go to Walmsley any night this week. From a staging point of view, the society, though its history is long, can surely never have been more adventurous and successful. The production is as much an engineering as an artistic achievement. The two-level stage not only revolves, but revolves in tempo with the music and the action. With the same good timing, extra pieces are lowered from the flies when wanted and hauled back again when done with. The lighting is excellent. And, just as in a modern professional theatre, the producer, Derek Taylor, can watch the show and, by means of an intercom, discreetly draw the attention of his Stage Manager to anything that is going wrong. If anything did last night, I missed it. The costumes (by the society's wardrobe mistress and Trevor Cresswell) are splendid. Lionel Bart's book is a very hurried and sketchy version of Oliver Twist and can do little more than vaguely remind one of the Dickens novel. He has spread himself more on the music and the lyrics and Oliver (Christopher Waites' boy soprano) and nearly everyone else in the cast have more to sing than to say. The orchestra, under J. Arnold Thornton, accompanies powerfully but most soloists emit decibels enough to come through, notably Alan Lee (Bumble the Beadle) and Nora Holder (Nancy). As the Artful Dodger, Don Howcroft has a neatly humourous style in dance and general deportment, and Arnold Knowles is a balletic Fagin who could get around anybody but the hangman. David Greenhalgh is formidable as Bill sykes, Ernest Pollitt a model of clarity as Mr Brownlow. The two choruses - children and adults - vie in heartiness. J.W.
Not even Oliver Twist could ask for more. Here, staged in a schoolroom at Egerton, on the Darwin road out of Bolton, was a presentation of Lionel Bart's musical version of the Dickens classic by Walmsley Church ODS that would match anything that the big societies could do. It was not only the use of a home-made push-button electrically-operated revolving stage - though this was a triumph for the technical staff - that made this North-West premiere as much a theatrical experience as an entertainment. Everything else about Derek Taylor's production was just right too. The frame scenery was a scaled down, almost exact replica of the London production and every change of scenery - and there were ten - was done in seconds before our eyes, even to the lowering of London Bridge. This made for such slickness that the curtain was down in two and a half hours flat, a remarkably short running time for the first night. There were back projection impressions of snow and racing clouds and lighting appropriate to every change of atmosphere. It was expertly cast for types too. Don Howcroft was outstanding as the Artful Dodger and other impressive characterisations were given by Alan Lee as a bumbling Beadle, Ernest Pollitt as the compassionate Mr Brownlow, Arnold Knowles as an almost human Fagin, David Greenhalgh an odious Bill Sykes, Nora Holder a down-to-earth Nancy, Glenys Poole a sluttish Bet and Christopher Waites, in his first part, as a timorous Oliver. There are two choruses of twelve children each, playing alternate nights to comply with the law, many of the costumes are also home-made and the whole production cost only six hundred pounds. Here then, for most amateur operatic societies, is the do-it-yourself answer to rising costs and scenery difficulties. Already one of the bigger societies, Urmston OS, have hired the revolve and bought the rest of the scenery. Tom Wildern

Back to top