YOU'VE got to hand it to the team at the Apollo Theatre — they know how to put on a big show in style.
To kick off the 50th anniversary season, the theatre chose Lionel Bart's lively musical, Oliver! — and with a huge cast of more than 50 performers, it is the Apollo's biggest production ever.
It proved an early sell-out and other dates had to be hastily added in.
Freddie Hollis was excellent as Oliver and sang Where Is Love? particularly well, while Zoe Divers was outstanding as Nancy.
Unusually the roles of Fagin and the Artful Dodger were both undertaken by females — Emma Wilkinson cut a dash as cheeky young Cockney Dodger and Julie Jones made Fagin her own with a great rendition of Reviewing the Situation.
Karl Whitmore was suitably threatening as the baddie Bill Sykes, while Anthony James had a lovely singing voice as Mr Bumble and Mish Whitmore had him suitably under her thumb as the Widow Corney.
Paul and Fiona Gwinnett were great as Mr and Mrs Sowerberry, especially their rendition of That's Your Funeral, while Immy Netherway and Lucca Guerrina were fabulous as Charlotte and Noah.
Carol Simpson and Dominic Craggs were good as Bet and Charley and Steve Reading played kindly Mr Brownlow well on the night I went — though he has been sharing this role with Joe Plumb.
David Ballard appeared as Dr Grimwig, with Anthea Weekes as Mrs Bedwin, Tracey Taylor as Sally and Laura Hedgecox as Agnes.
The song Who Will Buy? is particularly harmonious and I loved the way the milkmaid, rose seller, strawberry seller and knife-grinder were dotted around the auditorium.
The Apollo is not a huge theatre, so careful thought has been given to cast members using all the auditorium exits, and how to best create Bill Sykes' final scene on the roof.
This super-lively show was directed by Joe Plumb, with Julie Jones as musical director, and choreography by Callum Davies and Kate Lines.
Oliver! runs until tomorrow night (Saturday).