Oliver! reunion – 1981 and 2001
With RGS school productions rivalling the West End for quality and excitement, we were thrilled to secure some VIP tickets for the 2021 production of Oliver!. Cast and crew from the 1981 and 2001 shows caught up over drinks before enjoying the show.
Current Director of Drama, Sarah Branston (RGS staff 2001-present), took on Oliver! as her first big production on joining Reigate Grammar back in 2001. Old school friends, Laurence Anderson (RGS 1996-2003), who played Mr Bumble, and Alex Lear (RGS 1996-2003), one of the Bow Street Runners, enjoyed being reunited. The choreography for the 2001 production was crafted by Susie Wesson, née Kümpel (RGS staff 1999-2010), who couldn’t believe that Alex Lear wasn’t still 16 years old! We were pleased, too, that Helen Mumby (RGS 1995-2002), who played Nancy, managed to get along to the Saturday matinée.
“I haven’t actually seen a proper production of Oliver! since before I was in it. So much of it felt familiar, but it was such a fresh take on the show that I was immersed – and I was blown away by the talent – the whole spectacle and theatrics were unbelievable. It was fantastic to have a chance to catch up with Laurence Anderson after the show and it was a pleasure to see a few old teachers, although it’s still a bit unusual to give them their first names, even after so many years! And big love as ever to Miss Branston who hasn’t changed at all since I left – definitely one of my favourite teachers from my time at RGS.”
Alex Lear (RGS 1996-2003)
Interestingly, 20 years seems the preferred gap between performances, and we were delighted to welcome cast and crew from the 1981 production, too! John Manfield (RGS staff 1979-2010) who played a Bow Street Runner, Robert Cole (RGS 1977-1984), the Artful Dodger, and Graham Best (RGS staff 1975-1993), Producer joined the 2001 guests in the Headmaster’s study for pre-show drinks and canapés.
“I was very impressed by the vitality and focus of everyone involved. To get such a large cast organised and on stage was a triumph. I know from personal experience just how tight that stage can seem for large numbers (and an orchestra), but I thought the whole show was planned and choreographed wonderfully well. There were some very good performances all round, but for me, the Dodger and Fagin were quite excellent. What an interesting take on the plot to cast two females in those roles. I thought Reviewing the situation was a particular highlight – both the superb performance and singing by Eibhlin G, but also having the lone violinist alongside. I know those words so well, but was really moved by this scene. Thank you again for inviting me.”
Graham Best (RGS staff 1975-1993)
See you again in 2041!
Find photographs from the 2001 and 1981 productions in the Oliver! event gallery.
Watch a short excerpt from the 2021 production here.