Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Lionel Bart’s smash hit musical Oliver! features Bart’s sensational score, with irresistible songs including “Food Glorious Food”, “Consider Yourself”, “You’ve Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two”, “I’d Do Anything”, “Oom Pah Pah” and “As Long As He Needs Me”.
The eight week run will be the longest run of any show (outside pantomime) at the Theatre since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats in 1998, which ran for ten weeks. But Chief Executive Philip Bernays confirmed sales for the run were very good and the Theatre Royal will be organising “Dickensian” themed events around the shows stay at the Theatre Royal.
Oliver! recently completed a two year run on Drury Lane in London where it opened to rave reviews, sell-out business and the biggest advance sales of all time for a West End show.
Brian Conley (stage credits include ‘Edna Turnblad’ in Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre, ‘Caractacus Potts’ in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium, as well as originating the role of ‘Al Jolson’ in Jolson at the Victoria Palace) plays Fagin and he popped in to the Theatre Royal, while the tour relocated from Birmingham to Southampton.
He is actually playing Fagin from April until the Newcastle run, afterwards he will have a short break before returning to Birmingham for another pantomime, with as he put it “the legend that is Michael Harrison”. Harrison is known to North East audiences having been born in Wallsend and writing, directing and producing the Theatre Royal record breaking pantomimes each year, as well as producing other shows, including the current tour of I Dreamed A Dream, about and starring Susan Boyle.
Conley told us that he works with three sets of children in the show, each working three days a week and the characters green trademark Fagin coat is worth eight thousand pounds. Each actor who plays the role has their own coat, made out of goats skin, so they swirl and move as required. His Fagin make up takes one hour to put on for each show, although his younger daughter is not a fan of the way her father looks as Fagin, as he appears quite scary to her.
Each night the show attracts standing ovations as over fifty actors, and a dog, take to the stage for the finale. But in total there are over one hundred people involved in the tour of Oliver!
While at Stage School some of his fellow pupils were selected to audition for the West End version of the musical when it originally opened, but Conley was not chosen by his teacher to attend. The reason being; he was considered to be too fat to be a starving orphan . Then when the opportunity to play Fagin first arose in the West End he was committed to Hairspray so had to turn down the role. But now in 2012 he finally has the opportunity to tour the UK in one of the biggest touring musicals on the road today.
This tour of Oliver! promises to be yet another highlight in the current productions playing the Theatre Royal.