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Oliver! - A show full of Oom Pah Pah
Member Name: AJ26
Advantages: Fantastic show, great actors, great singing, Rowan Atkinson
Disadvantages: None other than its not cheap
My husband and I recently had a 4 night holiday to London and although we had various things we wanted to see and do in London the main reason for visiting was because we had booked tickets to go and see the musical Oliver! in London. I had first became aware of the musical opening after watching the television series "I'd Do Anything" which was the show where the public could chose the Nancy they wanted and also the Oliver's (they had 3 because they are young) were chosen too. I knew as soon as I had seen the show that I wanted to go, last year we went to London and had seen both The Sound of Music and Joseph and I had enjoyed both of them.
We booked our tickets through seetickets.com (which is one of the recommended ticket agencies) back in November and even then ticket availability on some nights was limited for the good seats. We paid £60 each for our tickets (plus £2 booking fee) and were seated in the Grand Circle.
The show opened to the public on the12th December 2008 although the official press night was on the14th January 2009. The musical which was written by Lionel Bart is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and being staged at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London. The musical Oliver was previously last shown at the Palladium back in 1994. Most people know the story of Oliver! Which is based on Charles Dickens Oliver Twist about the little boy who asked for more. It is packed with well known and well loved songs including "Food Glorious Food", "Consider yourself" and "I'd do anything" to name but a few.
The main characters in the cast are -
Fagin - Rowan Atkinson
Nancy - Jodie Prenger (Alternate Nancy is Tamsin Carroll)
Oliver - Gwion Jones, Harry Stott or Laurence Jeffcoate
Bill Sikes - Burn Gorman
Artful Dodger - Eric Dibb Fuller, Robert Madge or Ross McCormack
After a nice meal in a nearby little Italian Restaurant we made our way to join the crowds heading into the theatre. Outside a ticket tout was offering to buy and sell tickets but we quickly walked past, nothing was going to separate me from my Oliver ticket! Inside they were doing a roaring trade on Oliver merchandise with everything from t-shirts saying "I'd do anything!" to cuddly Bulls eye the dog toys. I was disappointed to see they didn't have a CD of the songs with the current cast, if they had then I would have been tempted to buy. Instead we bought a programme for £3.50 and a souvenir brochure for £6. Very glossy but a bit expensive but it's a nice souvenir and gives you something to read whilst waiting for the show to start.
We headed in to take our seats, stopping off at the toilets on the way. Little note here for the ladies, come early as there was a huge queue and only 4 toilets on the floor we were on. Still we made our way to the seats in time and sat in anticipation waiting for the show to start.
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is a really grand and impressive theatre it was really large and from what I could see was pretty much full. There are as I later discovered toilets on each floor and also a few little bars selling drinks. During the interval ice-cream is also sold for £3 a tub, the chocolate one is nice! Before long the curtain was lifted and the music began and then from high up on the stage, from the sides and up from the orchestra the children came marching on. And so the show continued grabbing your attention and keeping you entertained right the way through with great singing, acting, dancing, excitement, horror and humour. In three simple words - I loved it!
The cast in this show are really strong and make the musical the success it is. Special mention really has to be made to Rowan Atkinson in his portrayal of Fagin, he really is spectacular. Cameron Mackintosh must be congratulating himself on managing to persuade Rowan Atkinson to finally agree to do the role (it took him 15 years to eventually agree!) even if it is only until July 18th. He really brings the character alive and adds a sense of comedy to the role which I had never really noticed from watching Oliver on television or from amateur productions I've seen. He also brings a few of Mr Bean's peculiarities to the character and one of Mr Beans "accessories" makes a special appearance and no it's not his car! I do have to point out that he doesn't do the whole character as Mr Bean he only makes a few passing references to it to add to the humour. His transformation into the character is quite amazing, I read an article about it and he has actually shaved his head so that they can glue a cap and wig to his head. It takes 45 minutes every day to get all his make-up done and he really does end up looking like a rather shifty character.
I have to admit that Jodi Prenger was not my favourite choice of Nancy when I initially started watching the television show. However out of the final two I did think that Jodi was the better person for the role. In the time between the television show finishing and the musical opening Jodi has been working hard though. Her voice has improved significantly and is much stronger. She came across as a really believable Nancy character being able to show all the characteristics required, feisty, friendly, loving to the boys, independent and fun and all the while speaking and singing in a believable cockney accent. Her singing conveyed real emotion especially in "As long as he needs me" and her sense of fun comes shining through in the uplifting and raucous "Oom Pah Pah."
There are three Oliver's this is because of their young age they are not allowed to do every show. The Oliver who was performing on the night we were in was Lawrence. He had a good voice, good acting skills and came over quite sweet but was outperformed by the Artful Dodger whose cheeky character has all the great lines and laughs. I think that although the show is called Oliver the other characters are more colourful and steal the limelight. However they all do work well together and make the musical a great success. Along with the three Oliver's and three Artful Dodgers there are three teams of children with 32 in each team, the Farthings, Shillings and Tanners who rotate the performances to meet with the laws governing children working. To manage to train this number of children is really quite amazing. However although there are 32 children in the opening sequences later on in Fagin's gang there are only around 10.
Bill Sikes is played by Burn Gorman who was seemingly on the BBC's Torchwood series but I haven't seen any of them. He came across as a rather scary and intimidating person. He also had his dog Bulls eye, a real dog who makes a few appearances and at one point runs across the stage himself.
** Times **
The performances are at 7.30pm on Mondays to Saturdays. There is a matinee performance on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm.
Rowan Atkinson is appearing as Fagin until the 18th of July 2009 however he is on holiday from 26th March to 5th April so if you want to go to see him especially watch out for those dates.
Jodie Prenger is scheduled to appear as Nancy on all performances apart from Wednesday and Thursday evenings when Tamsin Carroll will play the role of Nancy.
The Oliver's are not decided until the day so you have to take what you get!
Obviously changes in schedules can be made due to sickness but I am sure you will enjoy the performance whoever plays the role.
** Prices **
Well as for any theatre in London prices are not cheap and this is one show you are unlikely to get many special discount prices. Seats are priced from £17.50 up to £60. There are reductions for groups of over 10 people if going for a Mon-Thurs performance.
** Reviews **
The musical has been receiving rave reviews and some of the things the press have said (in much fewer words than me!) about the musical include -
"Blast away all those recession cobwebs. Anyone who needs cheering up should get along to Drury Lane sharpish and catch this humdinger of a night." Daily Mail
"Fresh, exuberant and spiritually full of beans. A little bit scary, a lot of fun. A rip-roaring success." Independent on Sunday.
Summary: Oliver the musical is the best West End show I've seen
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