The stage at the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham will be filled with a plethora of budding young performers this week as TEPOS theatre company present the classic musical Oliver!.

The show – which is based on the Charles Dickens fable Oliver Twist – was written by Lionel Bart and premiered in the West End in 1960. It became one of the most popular musicals of all time and following a hugely successful Broadway run, Bart received the Tony Award for Best Original Score in 1963.

Oliver! follows the fate of a poor young orphan, who after requesting a larger portion of dinner at his workhouse, gets ousted and eventually finds solace with a criminal gang in London.

The groundbreaking musical was made into a film in 1968, which won six Academy Awards and starred Oliver Reed, Ron Moody and Shani Wallis. And if you look very closely at one of the big ensemble scenes, you might be able to spot a street urchin played by a young Elaine Paige.

For TEPOS, Director Eric Whiting has tried to bring back some of the atmosphere of the original novel. He explains:

“Charles Dickens wrote about a time in our history when death was never far away, the streets were filthy and for some unfortunates, a life of crime was the only way to survive. I wanted to put some of the ‘Dickensian darkness’ of Victorian London back into the story, but without losing any of the sense of optimism and innocence that people associate with the character of Oliver”.

The cast includes a number of performers who will be well-known to local theatregoers, including Mark Slaughter as Fagin, Penny Walshe as Nancy, Stuart Pinel as Mr. Bumble and Barbara Archer as Widow Corney. However, these experienced adults are in danger of being upstaged by the very talented younger cast members, made up of boys from the All The Arts Theatre School.

The role of Oliver is played by Ben Salter, whose previous experience includes Madame Butterfly at the Royal Albert Hall and Carousel at London’s Barbican Theatre. Noah Compton, who has previously performed at venues including The Barbican and Ronnie Scott’s, plays the Artful Dodger.

Penny Walshe, playing Nancy, has particularly enjoyed working with the younger cast members, saying: “Nancy is an absolute dream role – she has some fantastic songs and I get the chance to play a whole range of emotions as the show progresses. A lot of my scenes are with Ben and Noah, and their reactions make it easy. Noah has all the cheek and confidence you’d expect from Dodger and the look on Ben’s face when things are going wrong for Oliver will absolutely break your heart”.

Oliver! is running at the Bob Hope Theatre from 22-25 November. Tickets for Oliver! cost £14 for all performances and can be bought online at www.bobhopetheatre.co.uk or by phoning the box office on 020 8850 3702.

Photo by Lisa Tidy and Simon Clifton at A View for a Room Photography.