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Tenacity IT sponsors Oliver!

I've had five kids, so I've seen a school performance or two; and the pleasure of seeing your own kids perform, generally outweighs the appreciation of the show as a standalone event. Sometimes by quite some margin, ahem. But in the case of Oliver, performed this weekend at Mercia school in Sheffield, it was very much worthy of a watch in its own right; which was just as well, as my son Bruno wasn't in it. I was there having sponsored the show through my inorganic offspring, Tenacity IT, a locally based IT company. Yes, yawn, there's the plug. It's no workhouse at my company, oh no.


Like most of my generation, I know most of the songs from the 1968 musical on the telly - now so dated it's not that watchable. And I definitely wouldn't inflict it on the kids, who won't even put up with 1980's Flash Gordon, one of the best movies of all time, obviously. I blame that Oliver for my cultural northern unconscious bias that assumes a heavy "Landon" accent is basically a sign that the geezer is an obvious criminal of some kind. I hadn't seen any of the various stage revivals or reinterpretations, not till now anyway. But right from the first few songs, I "considered myself… at home…" - not watching a school performance at all, but a well staged, well-rehearsed, excellently casted and quality production in its own right. The choreography, the dancing, the singing and the orchestra all came together to belt out a rendition of "Food Glorious Food" worthy of a proper theatre, not a school hall (a school hall not quite big enough to accommodate the orchestra in the same room, sadly). Even the programme was superbly done.


I have to big-up the eponymous Oliver, the most wonderful casting since Hugh Jackson. That lad simply IS Oliver, more so IMO than the kid from 1968 hamming up his cockney accent, whoever he was. This Oliver was tender, fragile, sweet and innocent; and that's just his singing voice. This Oliver, with politeness shining through his layers of loss, was brilliant.


Other standout performances were Nancy and Mrs Sowerberry. Nancy's "As Long As He Needs Me" had the audience cheering, and a few tears too I expect. "Who will buy" was also very well done - this complex arrangement with its contrasting rounds, melodies and tones must have been a challenge to master - but master it they did. And the entry of the deeper baritone of the knife guy was excellent, adding depth to the rich tapestry of life this song clearly represents. It was a rare joyous moment in a much harder and darker second half of the musical.


But it almost feels unfair to highlight these few, when everyone involved clearly did such a good job, the entire cast, the staff, the support, the orchestra. Oliver the musical was an excellent choice for this school's first venture into this genre. Catchy tunes, great dancing, lots of fun - but also dealing with Dickens' strong themes of inequalities and privilege, what we would now call social exclusion, as well as domestic violence and the treatment of women. A bravura performance, and my "top hat" goes off to all involved. I just wish my kids would stop singing "Oom-Pah-Pah" over and over, however. It'll pass…


Liam McNaughton

March 2024


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