Everyone knows the story of Oliver so going to see the musical led not only to high expectations but also led to seeing how Lionel Bart‘s original story would be transformed onto the stage by Cameron Mackintosh. Would it bring anything new and exciting to the narrative? Or would it prove to be another bland adaptation of an over-used story? Having never been to The Mayflower I was immediately impressed by the extraordinary building. With the musical gaining rave reviews and being extremely well received on the the other legs of the tour, my expectations were yet again increased by a significant amount. The legend that is Brian Conley taking over the role of Fagin from Neil Morrissey meant the musical gained a new audience with him as the main selling point for the production. To be perfectly honest Conley stole the show. At times my family and I were convinced he was ad-libbing to humour the audience, which went down a storm with multiple applauses after his jokes. He was hilariously funny in his mannerisms as well as in the dialogue and his singing really captured Fagin’s gruff tones.
The musical takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end, capturing the original story perfectly. For a person that despises children, I was expecting to cringe over some poorly over-acted characters, but the child actors were incredible to say the least. Not a foot was put out of line during their dance routines and they all remained exceptionally professional. It was hard to keep a smile from your face when watching them, especially the likes of the Artful Dodger whose cockney charm won over the hearts of every member in the audience. He really captured the mature nature of Dodger throughout, especially with the comic flirting with Nancy. One of the young boys played the comic character (and side-kick to Dodger) Charley Bates, hilariously. The relationship between him and Conley on stage was magical. Conley would often pick him up by the waist and carry him off stage. The relationship portrayed was genuine and heart-warming, often making me turn to my family almost welling up with the cuteness of it all.
With the performance being almost two and a half hours long you would think some of the play would have dragged. But surprisingly not – the first half went so quickly that when it came to the interval I was shocked that an hour and a half had passed. They kept the pace up with lively musical numbers and quick character development. The ratio of music to dialogue was just right, pleasing even those who aren’t too keen on musicals. The set was something I could not praise enough. Moving from the dingy lair of Fagin and his army of pickpockets right up to the posh, upper-class mansion of Oliver’s Grandfather, Mr Brownlow. The diversity of settings in the play was made to look effortless and seamless by the technical team.
Despite giving the performance so much high praise I have to mention one slight disappointment. In my opinion the young boy playing Oliver wasn’t as great as I would have expected for the role. The other child actors seem to outshine his performance despite him playing the lead role. Saying this, there was nothing glaringly bad about his performance there just wasn’t anything outstanding. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to see this production to take it up.
Oliver is touring the UK until February 2013