I have certainly managed to fit in a quite a few shows this year, and already booked up for plenty next year. I caught Oliver! on one of the last performances in Newcastle at the Theatre Royal, on the Friday night after a long stay. After seeing the show I can really understand why it had a long run in Newcastle (and the other places on the tour) due to the incredible stage set up and props used for the different scenes. It was forever changing and it really added to a fantastic show containing many much-loved songs.
The cast was fantastic (and a rather large one come to mention it) looked like they were having fun in the roles and performing the songs. This really makes a massive difference in a musical like Oliver! I thought some of it was rather raunchy and a little cheeky which was definitely something for the adults in the audience. I really enjoyed seeing this on the stage, much more than I actually expected.
The stage and large cast really do play such a massive part in why this is so successful, the now second longest show to run at the Theatre Royal coming only second to Cats. I think it had to be a long run which I am sure has not ended up being that big of a risk and they must have sold out nearly every night. It’s such a popular show, if they tried to do a small-scale tour I think the passion of the story and songs would have been lost.
Brian Conley as Fagin was just incredible, I wasn’t really too sure what to expect from him but he really did deliver. He managed to bring a comedy value to the role but without losing any of the important serious parts as well. His performance of “Reviewing the Situation” was my favorite in the entire show, it was brilliant. He really looked to be loving the part as well from start to finish.
Cat Simmons really took on the role of Nancy and made you feel for her so much in her love for the man who eventually kills her. Such a strong love story as you already know that it’s not going to end happily at all. I think she will be a one to watch out for in what she will do next when this Oliver tour is finished.
Now I realise a massive mistake in not getting a programme, I am not entirely sure who played the role of Oliver and Dodger . . . I have tried to search online but had no success yet. I thought the boy who was Dodger was just fantastic and the “I’d Do Anything” sequence was a joy to watch. While the show is named Oliver, that role is not really that big when it comes to the overall show. He only has one song which he sings alone and is often watching what it going on and then joining in. I had never really thought about that until seeing the show, the biggest role has to be Fagin, followed by Nancy.
I think the brilliance about this musical is that the story is based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, something which we read at school. I always find that good when years later you come back to that story and appreciate that you read it at school. I do believe I even performed parts of it at an open evening!
I also forget how many of the songs I actually knew from the show, which was pretty much all of them! You just forget about some of them and I kept thinking this one is my favorite but then the next musical number would hit and I would change my mind. It has a very good balance of song types, fun mixed with emotional and great dance routines. “As Long As He Needs Me” was really nailed by Simmons and brings a tear to the eye and a lump in the throat, it’s one of those powerful musical love songs. Especially when it is sung with so much emotion, you can understand how she feels and you hold high hope that everything is going to be alright in the end (even though you already know the outcome).
I am therefore really pleased that I got to see this touring version of the show, especially as the tickets were bought only a couple of weeks before the performance. We were in the front row of the amphitheatre (rather high up for someone who usually sits in the stalls) and the whole Theatre was full, I am sure it will be the same tonight in what is the last performance in Newcastle before the show heads to Leeds next week.
I would recommend this show even to people who are not big musical goers as it usually is the one which everyone loves from the film version. It is a joy to watch especially the youngsters performing at such a fantastic standard.