Let me be frank and declare my hand. I love Oliver!, writes Claire Badbury-Park.

One might ask, “Who doesn’t love Oliver!?”. It epitomises all that is great about musical theatre; a strong storyline, convincing, believable characters, and an excellent musical score.

Throw in a chorus of cute kids and a dog, and you’re on to a winner. Right?

Well, probably. In the sense that Oliver! is such a well crafted and much loved show that most audiences will forgive any directorial transgressions or performer shortcomings and still rapturously applaud every scene and musical number, then yes.

But, there is a but.

Oliver! can be unsatisfyingly hollow if the full weight of the story and its attendant characters is not recognised; if it is played only along a solely comedic dimension.

There is, and must be more to Oliver! than dropped aitches, skirt swooshing oom pah pah and smudgy faced urchins…and woe betide the director who thinks otherwise.

Given the demands of the piece, St Albans Operatic Society did a terrific job of conveying the complex and multidimensional storylines.

Director, Rob Milner, is clearly an astute man. He never over played the scenes where ‘hamming up’ was a clear and present danger.

His direction was simple but effective, with the company excelling in the big ensemble numbers. Simply choreographed and seamlessly executed, Consider yourself was a particular highlight.

The principal line up of seasoned artistes was gifted with some outstanding performances.

As Nancy, Emma Stratton’s pathos and poignancy was really well expressed. Clearly an accomplished actor, her vocals and her sensitive rendition of As long as he needs me, defined her characterisation.

Oliver can be a tricky role to credibly pull off, but Thomas Wilkins exploited his angelic choirboy tones fully in order to give a guileless performance.

In complete contrast, Lewis Elliott was a real sensation as Dodger. His abundant charm and confident swagger was really quite something.

As Fagin, Howard Salinger grew in confidence throughout the performance, with Reviewing the situation coming over particularly strongly, whilst Jamie Ross looked suitably thuggish and cold as murderous Bill Sykes.

Special mention too for Tucker the staffy terrier who made the most of his canine cameo role…a nice touch.

For more information about St Albans Operatic Society, visit saos.org.uk