Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver is now over 50 years old, and Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s revival brings this classic piece back to the stage with all the nostalgic enthusiasm it so richly deserves.
This brilliant piece of writing has rarely been bettered and is a perfect example of Dickensian life and language. The score, a masterpiece of light and shade, directed vibrantly by Toby Higgins, complements the lyrics, and the whole mesmerises the rapt audience from start to finish.
Brian Conley, a versatile and consummate performer, excels in the role of Fagin with every detail of his character defined to perfection. His ‘I’m reviewing the situation’ is beautifully constructed and delivered, and the audience responds to his pathos and comic touches.
Cat Simmons as Nancy shines with poignant sadness exemplified by her haunting, yet powerful delivery of the classic ‘As Long As He Needs Me’. Her enduring loyalty to Bill touches the heart and yet sees her ultimate demise. She is artistically matched by Iain Fletcher as a chillingly portrayed Bill Sykes, who oozes brooding malevolence whenever on stage. He is indeed a dark threat running through the show, only lightened by the odd glimpse of his dog, Bullseye.
Although Oliver, played on press night by Harry Polden, is brilliant as the pallid, sweet natured underdog who dares to ask for more, the young star for me is the Artful Dodger Max Griesbach. His energy is infectious and his performance sparkles, never once coming out of his cockney, confident character. He grabs centre stage attention and one’s heart, and will undoubtedly be a name to look out for in the future.
The supporting roles of the Sowerberry’s, the ubiquitous Bumble/Corney partnership and the Brownlow household are all convincing played.
The ensemble of both adults and children are wonderfully cast, providing gusto and raucous eagerness throughout. Matthew Bourne’s incredible choreography is inspired. The big dance numbers display sheer unadulterated dynamism. The changing street scene, as the chorus dance through ‘Consider Yourself’, is nothing less than genius and the ‘Oom- Pah-Pah’ number, set in the seedy ale house, raunchy and atmospheric.
Numerous, yet seamless, set changes enhanced by clever lighting ensure the audience never once departs from the mood of Dickensian times.
This is a magical piece of theatre and will undoubtedly leave you asking for more! Which after a well-deserved standing ovation, and encore, the cast is happy to provide.