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Having seen Oliver! in the West End recently, I loved it so much, that I pre-ordered the new soundtrack CD from Amazon. It was released on March 16th and I played it as soon as I received it and loved it. It is still my CD of choice at the moment.
It was recorded over a week in January and the CD includes the applause and audience reaction. I think this makes it even more evocative and atmospheric and reminds me of being at the theatre myself, watching the show. Right from the opening bars, it takes me back to the West End and I can visualise the show.
When I went to see it, Jodie Prenger was ill and couldn't perform, so this CD is a great way of finally hearing what she is like as Nancy and I am impressed. She sounds just like I hoped she would, when she won the I'll Do Anything television series in 2008. She has power and passion and her performances are very convincing.
We saw Tamsin Carroll on stage in the role and didn't find her version of As Long As He Needs Me believable, but Jodie nails it. Hers is a beautiful and emotional performance and even just listening to the audio version, it draws you in and makes you feel for the character's plight, locked in an abusive relationship with Bill Sikes.
Most of us will be familiar with the most famous songs of Oliver! - Food Glorious Food, Where Is Love?, Consider Yourself, You've Got To Pick-A-Pocket Or Two, I'd Do Anything, Who Will Buy? Even as a child, I would sing some of these songs and loved watching the film on TV, with Mark Lester in the starring role.
I was surprised that I also knew other songs, such as Be Back Soon and It's A Fine Life, which I could sing along to, but hadn't realised they were from this musical.
The soundtrack CD has twenty-six tracks on it, far more than were featured in the film, of course. Two of my favourites were ones I hadn't heard before seeing Oliver! at the theatre - That's Your Funeral and Reviewing The Situation.
That's Your Funeral is rather dark, but very funny too. It takes place quite near the start of the show and is the fifth track here. Oliver Twist is taken from the workhouse to work at the funeral parlour owned by Mr and Mrs Sowerberry. The song is performed by Mr Bumble (Julius D'Silva), Mr Sowerberry (Julian Bleach) and Mrs Sowerberry (Louise Gold).
Julian Bleach has the most amazing acting voice and was recently Davros in last year's finale of Doctor Who. He makes a scary Mr Sowerberry and his singing is great too; he delivers the clever lines with just the right mix of menace and humour.
Reviewing The Situation is Fagin's solo, performed here by the versatile Rowan Atkinson, who really excels in this role. This is amazing to watch on stage as Rowan is supremely talented at physical comedy and uses this brilliantly here. It still works well on audio though and he makes a very good job of not only the vocals, but also conveying a wide range of emotions through his voice. While I thought Ron Moody was great in the film, it was Rowan who really showed me the many sides of Fagin, including his insecurities and worries.
Torchwood star Burn Gorman is Bill Sikes and during his big number My Name!, I was distracted by Rowan just sitting in a corner (which shows how amazing a Fagin he is, as Burn is rather hot and it takes a lot to distract me from him!), so ended up feeling he was somewhat disappointing. However, listening to it on the soundtrack CD, Burn Gorman does a good job. Again, he's an actor, not a singer, but his vocals are fine and he manages to sound threatening - as he should.
It's A Fine Life is a track I find myself singing a lot at home. It's a wonderfully catchy song, despite the rather bleak message - and the stage version of Oliver! is quite depressing at times. The initial singing of this song is quite light and cheery, but the reprise near the end is darker and more sinister, as Bill Sikes is at his most threatening again.
Consider Yourself is where the Artful Dodger gets to shine and the one we saw was excellent. I've not been quite as impressed with the one used on this recording (Ross McCormack), although he is pretty good.
Another catchy song is I'd Do Anything with Fagin, Nancy, Oliver, Dodger and the boys. It's a fun song with lots of personality from the main cast. This part of the musical is probably the most optimistic and contains some great songs.
You've Got To Pick-A-Pocket Or Two, starring Rowan Atkinson again, is another highlight of both the stage show and the soundtrack CD. You can't help but tap your foot and sing along and Rowan really sounds like he is living and loving the role.
Of course, there are some tracks that aren't as good - though thankfully they are in the minority here. My daughter and I found the characters of Mr Bumble and Widow Corney (Wendy Ferguson) extremely irritating and this comes across on the CD too. Their big number is I Shall Scream! and is the only track I regularly skip over, as I find it so annoying.
My main annoyance with the CD is the use of just one of the Olivers and Artful Dodgers. There are three of each that take it in turns to play the roles on stage and I feel it would have been fairer to have used all three on the CD. I assume someone decided it was better to have one voice to provide consistency and continuity, but it was a shame not to have all of them on it.
The Oliver on the CD is Laurence Jeffcoate, but we saw Gwion Wyn Jones and I prefer his voice with its lovely Welsh lilt. Laurence does a good job and sounds suitably angelic, especially in Where Is Love? But I do feel Gwion is better.
Overall though, the 2009 London cast are excellent and I love this CD and would definitely recommend it. If you've seen the show yourself, it will bring back lots of wonderful memories. If you haven't seen it, you'll wish you had!
The 2009 London Cast Recording of Oliver! is available from Amazon UK for £8.98. The artwork is well done too and the brochure is beautiful with lots of colour photos and an interesting four-page review by Cameron Mackintosh.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Food, Glorious Food
3 I Shall Scream
4 Boy For Sale
5 That's Your Funeral
6 Coffin Music
7 Where Is Love?
8 Consider Yourself
9 Consider Yourself (Reprise)
10 Pick A Pocket Or Two
11 It's A Fine Life
12 I'd Do Anything
13 Be Back Soon
14 The Robbery
16 My Name
17 As Long As He Needs Me
18 Where Is Love? (Reprise)
19 Who Will Buy?
20 It's A Fine Life (Reprise)
21 Reviewing The Situation
22 Oliver (Reprise)
23 As Long As He Needs Me (Reprise)
24 London Bridge
25 Reviewing The Situation (Reprise)
26 Curtain Calls - Consider Yourself