Writer and Composer: Lionel Bart
Director: Laurence Connor
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Oliver!, the story of the poor little orphan who befriends a group of thieves and miscreants before eventually finding his way to his real home, has seen its fair share of adaptations; with plays, musicals, television shows and even on film. It would seem entirely possible then, for this interpretation from the minds of Cameron Mackintosh and Laurence Connor to get lost in the mix. However, by the end of the first number, Food Glorious Food, any doubt as to the quality of this show is entirely laid to rest. The work house setting manages to be both minimal and detailed while both the children from the national tour and those local to Norwich perform with absolute precision, and such gusto that the audience are immediately drawn into the centre of the Dickensian world.
It is the attention to detail throughout which would seem to be the defining aspect of this show. The sets are highly detailed (Totie Driver and Adrian Vaux) and their transitions flawless – indeed the set changes go entirely unnoticed throughout most of the show. In a cast as large as Oliver! It would seem to be easy for some of the cast to merely blend into the background, particularly considering how many young children are in the cast. And yet, from start to finish, every single member of the cast plays their rôle beautifully, which is particularly noticeable in Consider Yourself, when the audience can truly feel a part of a busy Victorian street.
While the entire cast should be commended there are several actors that shone just a little brighter in this performance. Namely, Max Griesbach as the Artful Dodger, whom hits just the right contrast between tear away and cheeky to make everybody completely fall for him. Brian Conley’s Fagin becomes the perfect accompaniment to Dodger as he truly creates his own version of the infamous character. While the character is often shown as somewhat of an emotionless miser, Conley’s version becomes more humane, and certainly more comedic that his predecessors. Iain Fletcher as Sykes also puts in a good performance as the sinister menace but one of the biggest hits of this show is Bullseye – his dog. While any show with an animal performer usually gets cheers regardless of its skills, this one truly earns his applause. While he’s only in a small number of scenes his timing is always perfect and he is even entirely focused during a scene with over twenty performers, gun shots and smoke.
Oliver! is always a draw because of the famous musical numbers such as Oom-Pah-Pah, That’s Your Funeral and many others which certainly do not disappoint here, however this show is so much more than just a few songs. The sets are stunning, the choreography is breath taking, and the performers are spectacular, it’s a must see show – consider yourself in for a treat.