Lights, camera, action! On the 16th, 17th and 18th of November 2023, Surbiton High School – an independent girls’ school situated in Southwest London - put on four prodigious performances of Oliver! the Musical at the New Wimbledon Theatre, located just a few miles away. These performances were the product of months of incredible dedication and hard work, evident in absolutely every element of the show. With each performance somehow surpassing the last, they all had the audience begging ‘please sir, can we have some more?’

Oliver! is a stage musical, written by Lionel Bart in 1960. Based on the Dickens book, Oliver Twist, the show follows the story of a young orphan boy as he attempts to navigate life in Victorian London. It premiered in Wimbledon Theatre in 1960 (which, fittingly, was the same venue that SHS performed at), later to premiere on Broadway in 1963. Since it’s debut, Oliver! has become one of the most popular musicals – especially within schools – and has been performed over 3000 times to date.

The school’s musical featured a phenomenal cast composed entirely of students, including rising talents Olivia Robins as Oliver, and Talia Lando as Fagin. While the ceaseless hard work and sheer talent shone through in every moment on stage, just as much went on behind the scenes, where students also helped to create the magic in tech, props and music.

I went backstage to speak to Cicely Edwards, a member of the musical’s live pit band, about their experience as part of Oliver!.

  ‘Every year the teachers say that the musical is better than last year and I think that they’re right.

‘I felt really excited to be a part of the pit band, but also a bit apprehensive as I knew what a big deal the musical is at SHS. It was very busy and at times quite stressful with so much music to learn, but the end result was amazing and it was an experience that I’ll never forget.’

Surbiton High School is no stranger to the stage, and has even performed at New Wimbledon Theatre before; just last year, the school put on a delightfully comical performance of Legally Blonde: the Musical, which was equally well received by all.

Family, friends and critics alike have described this year’s musical as ‘fun’, ‘fantastic’, and ‘unforgettable’, and ‘they’d do anything’ to watch it again. While it is hard to fathom anything exceeding the talent displayed in Oliver!, it is irrefutable that Surbiton High School’s theatrical talent knows no bounds, and we can certainly look forward to more incredible shows from them in years to come.