A few nights ago I went to see Oliver! It has been on my ‘to see’ list ever since the Andrew Lloyd Webber programme went in search of the perfect Nancy. Oliver closes on 8thJanuary 2011 after a fantastic two year run, and tickets are selling out fast. I didn’t realise the scale of this show before I went – the theatre is massive and very grand and the stage constantly changes, with ever more fabulous backdrops for each successive scene. But by far the most epic aspect of this musical is the huge cast, predominantly made up of very talented young children.
The show currently stars entertainer Russ Abbot as the loveable rogue Fagin (although I saw understudy Tim Laurenti in the role) and Kerry Ellis as Nancy. Laurenti is a devilish Fagin, he makes the character suitably sinister but still manages to be utterly comical; thanks also to the clever script. Ellis is clearly very capable, as is evident from her impressive resume, but for me she didn’t sparkle as much as I hoped she would, a shame considering how superb the rest of the cast are.
Gwion Wyn Jones (Oliver) and Ben Wilson (Artful Dodger) are the real stars of the night. I can’t believe how capable and confident they are on stage, singing, dancing and acting with startling maturity and swagger. I love the sequence right at the start of the show when all the kids come on stage to sing ‘Food Glorious Food.’ They are fantastically choreographed by Matthew Bourne who must have rehearsed them half to death to achieve this standard. I couldn’t help coo-ing, but also felt a twinge of jealousy and wanted to be up there myself joining in. How such young kids remember two hours worth of material and pull it off so convincingly is beyond me.
I am so glad I made an effort to see this before it disappears from the West End. Oliver! is an example of showbiz at its very best.
Book tickets here.