(Touring to Leeds Grand Theatre)
CAMERON Mackintosh’s new touring production of Oliver! is a fitting tribute to Charles Dickens’ bicentenary year.
Based on his book Oliver Twist, the show is a classic. Originally performed in London in 1960, then revived regularly and a hit film, the superb music and lyrics were written by Lionel Bart while the story is classic rags to riches, illustrating the extreme poverty of Victorian London, the horrors of the workhouse, hunger, alcoholism, crime and even domestic violence.
This production has an excellent cast - the actor Neil Morrissey of Men Behaving Badly and the voice of Bob the Builder, not previously associated with musical theatre, stars in the role of Fagin, the master of an organized gang of juvenile thieves and pickpockets.
Fagin’s costume of long green velvet coat, long beard and unkempt long hair make him barely recognizable - he performs the role with style.
Surprisingly he can sing and dance, pulling off comedic timing in the number You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two, trailing a line of red spotted handkerchiefs across the stage to much applause.
Samantha Barks, a runner up in the hit TV talent show to find Nancy is excellent as the down trodden but highly spirited girlfriend of Bill Sykes.
She has a versatile singing voice and performs the touching song As Long As He Needs Me, and the rip roaringly bawdy Oom Pah Pah with equal enthusiasm. The junior cast of the workhouse orphans and pickpockets are brilliant singers and dancers. Oliver is innocent in contrast to the worldly wise Artful Dodger.
The drunken funeral director Mr Sowerberry (David Langham) is brilliant performing the hilariously funny song That’s Your Funeral.
The sets are a feat of theatrical engineering, a workhouse complete with two staircases, Fagin’s dingy lair and the contrasting Brownlow’s mews house.
The London backdrop is fantastic, featuring several famous landmarks - St Paul’s Cathedral looks life like.
After some consideration, I can state this production of Oliver is outstanding!
Sarah J Robinson