CSODS Oliver production behind the scenes by Andreas Yiasimi

I would like to congratulate all involved with the outstanding Oliver production staged at the Pavilion Theatre on Cromer pier. It was my début appearance in the chorus line up and the magic will live in my heart forever.

As a child running around in London’s vibrant East End in the 1960’s I never dreamed I would one day appear on stage in one of my all time favourite musicals.

I can now reveal that this meant much more to me than people first thought. Acting was my first love and I studied theatrical arts and photography in sixth form at Wanstead High school and at Forest College thereafter.

I entered a two year drama course just four Months before the exam and achieved a distinction playing a psychopath in the suspense thriller ‘Night Must Fall’ who could display many different personalities to suit his needs. I acquired a Welsh accent by listening to ‘Ivor The Engine’ over and over.

I went on to play lead role in a Greek spoken play in London and joined local dramatic societies. Then life’s unpredictability changed my path and we moved to East Runton, the rest is history and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

As soon as I heard CSODS was auditioning for Oliver I really wanted to go for it, however, in two minds knowing I was rusty after a break of over three decades. It took a little persuading by a couple of friends and I’m thankful for that.

I knew it had to be something special to celebrate Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society’s centenary year and I can confidently say the show surpassed all expectations.

I have enjoyed many CSODS musicals so I had an idea of the high standards delivered in the past and now I understand why. Work started soon after the auditions under the excellent direction of the amazing Amanda Howell.

Weeks of dedication by choreographer, Carole Beaty and musical director, Rosamund Walton was destined for inevitable success.

Everything fell into place from the start and it was obvious during rehearsals the show had powerful lead characters.

Mr Bumble the cruel, pompous beadle of the poorhouse was played by Peter Howell. Fagin, a self-confessed miser who does very little to improve the squalid lives of the children he takes in was played by Nick Bird.

Bill Sykes one of Dickens’s most vicious characters and a very strong force in the novel when it comes to having control over somebody or harming others, was convincingly played by Gary Clifton. Nancy, who is fiercely protective of Oliver and harbours a great deal of motherly affection and pity for him was played by Claire Reynolds.

Every evening I listened to Claire singing ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ backstage and marvelled at her vocal precision.

Oliver was played by Joseph Oxtoby and Noah Vigor who took turns under the spotlight gaining audience sympathy with their acting.

All the children did remarkably well and I’m sure some of them will go on to be stage names of the future. CSODS is a wonderful introduction for children to flourish in theatrical arts and we are indeed lucky to have Cromer pavilion theatre on our doorstep.

I don’t think some people realise the amount of work that goes into the sets, lighting costumes and overall preparation behind the scenes, it was a mammoth task that gelled together on this occasion. Wardrobe mistress, Sharon Rogers worked wonders.

There were numerous costume changes and I had five throughout each show, playing four different characters. I’m truly grateful to the ladies that did a grand job helping us change. Thank you Mary and Tina, your contribution was priceless.

There was never any pressure until opening night, there was an air of unusual anticipated silence when the announcement echoed around the theatre that the show was about to begin. No one knew what to expect.

While the National anthem played I closed my eyes in the wings and prayed. Then the magic began to unfold, after the rapturous applause at the end of the first act everyone knew they were delivering a fine performance.

By the end of the show the audience stood on their feet and it continued every night. The popularity of the production sunk in when there were hardly any tickets left throughout the week, a complete sell-out had been achieved.

I would like to extend my heartfelt acknowledgement to every single person involved in the show, who all played a vital part on this amazing journey.

On the final night I was given permission to leave the stage before the walk down, so that I could capture a charity cheque presentation on camera. I remember rushing up to the theatre balcony and viewing the spectacle from an audience’s point of view. it was very emotional as the cast gave their final bow and I shed a silent tear in the darkness.

My tears changed to laughter when someone in the crowd spotted me and called out in a loud voice “Look! The Oom Pah Pah man is now a photographer”

The Kid from London’s slums had pieced together another bit of life’s jigsaw puzzle, It was a dream come true.

I am also overjoyed the company raised £2000 for the chosen local charity, ‘About with friends’ long may it continue.

For more information please visit csods.com

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