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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Theatre - Oliver! - Palace Theatre, Manchester

Star rating – 8/10

I’m a sucker for a great musical, and Charles Dickens is up there with the greatest writers for me too, so this touring version of ‘Oliver!’ is pretty much a perfect recipe for my delight and delectation. And it did not disappoint.
It’s difficult to get the images and performances from the classic 1968 film out of your head, but for the most part I was transported back to a world nineteenth century poverty and petty crime in the way I was supposed to be. And that in no small part was due to the wonderful set - the clever use of perspective on the relatively small Palace stage, and the series of transformations from one scene to another were really magical and very effective.

The other major plus were some of the bigger musical multi cast numbers, such as ‘Consider Yourself’ as the charming Artful Dodger and Oliver meet for the first time; ‘Who Will Buy’ set against a fantastic London sunrise backdrop; and the bar room ditty ‘Oom- Pah- Pah’, led by Samantha Parks giving a great performance as Nancy. These big numbers really made the show come alive and surely have the power to put a smile on even the most resistant of faces.

Neil Morrissey was a bit of a revelation as Fagin. Although his voice might not be the strongest he was really great as the crafty old leader of the pick pockets. He even managed to get a ‘Bob the Builder’ reference in there too - bless him. Some of the storyline is a bit messed around with, but compromises always do have to be made. Overall this Oliver gave just what I wanted from a great musical – good performances; great foot tapping musical numbers; a good story; and thrilling sets. And a real live Bull’s Eye as Bill Sykes’ dog. Job done.

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