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Oliver! takes Centre Stage

Food Glorious Food will be on the bill at one of the region’s premier theatres this week.

Food Glorious Food will be on the bill at one of the region’s premier theatres this week. Entertainment Editor GORDON BARR has the details.

A CAST of home-grown talent will stage one of the best-loved musicals of all time in the North East this week.

Oliver! will be performed by Centre Stage at Sunderland Empire on Friday and Saturday and the enormous cast is entirely made up of North East talent.

Based on the book by Charles Dickens, the show promises a great family night out as it follows the adventures of young Oliver Twist from the moment he asks for ‘more’, through his apprenticeship to an undertaker, his arrival in London and his encounter with Fagin and his notorious gang of pickpockets.

Meeting colourful characters such as Mr Bumble, Widow Corney and The Artful Dodger along the way, audiences will also be introduced to the tender Nancy and the villainous Bill Sykes before reaching the inevitable happy ending.

Its famous score includes songs Food Glorious Food, Who Will Buy?, Pick a Pocket or Two, Consider Yourself, and the show-stopping As Long As He Needs Me, as well as a host of vibrant dance routines.

Oliver! is being presented by Centre Stage, a Sunderland-based theatre group which was established on Wearside in 1993 and which has been producing shows at the Empire Theatre since 1999. This production is the second, following Cry in the Dark in 2005, to actually be presented by Centre Stage Community Theatre.

The community branch of Centre Stage incorporates people of all ages within the community who are interested in experiencing the thrill of being in a musical production.

The show features the talents of 100 performers from the region – from professional actors, singers and musicians, to first-timers who have never set foot on stage before. The age range is also very wide and encompasses people from seven years old all the way up to 79.

Centre Stage’s aim is to provide a professional theatre experience to the community regardless of age, experience or skill – something that is unique to them in Sunderland.

“We are very happy to be back at the Sunderland Empire,” says Centre Stage director Fiona Clegg.

“We are particularly proud to be able to participate in the centenary celebrations of this beautiful theatre.

“We will actually be starting off the Empire’s second 100 years by presenting the first musical in the theatre since its birthday.”

The theatre has strong links to Oliver! as Lionel Bart, who wrote the songs and script for the show, made his professional performing debut on the Empire stage in 1956 as part of the rock and roll group The Cavemen, whose lead singer was Tommy Steele.

Oliver! will be at the Empire this Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are priced £10 and £12 with further concessions available and can be obtained from the Empire Box Office on (0870) 602 1130.

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