This production uses a bare stage, short scenes, and simple but crucial costumes to take us seamlessly from Gloucester Cathedral to the forest to the streets of London to the open sea. The crowd choreography is slick and busy, with a canny eye for how it will be seen from the audience, which sits on two sides of the space.
As for the individual performances, there are too many to single out, with many cast members taking multiple roles. Ryan Hodson is a charismatic Alexander Ashbrook and Annie Stafford is the striking Melissa Milcote, imbuing the love interest with unexpected depth. Tinashe Mangwana and Petronella van Tienen carry the breathless action of the second half in their touching portrayals of the young orphans. Meanwhile, Lloyd Allison-Young is a magnificent villain, with his slippery words and bloodless brutality, and Joshua McElroy is his tormented, tragic son.
The Coram Boy is a Dickensian swoop across 19th-century England that goes to the edge of melodrama but, for me, achieves an emotional punch located on just the right side of authenticity. Nate Edmondson’s superb underscore helps here, resisting the lure of costume drama picturesque with shafts of attitude. As for the ending, it does not disappoint, tying up the loose ends of the plot with a miraculous twist. As the cast breaks into a stirring chorus, it almost feels like Christmas.
The Coram Boy runs in Sydney until December 7.