Newest Review: ... at you) I was most impressed by the Theatre Royal. It was grand enough to give a sense of occasion and our view from the stalls was exce... more
Please, sir, I want some MORE!!
Member Name: karenuk
Advantages: Entertaining, great acting, amazing sets, wonderful experience
Disadvantages: Quite expensive (but worth it!)
I have had a long-standing fear of going to London, but on March 3rd this year, I overcame it for one great reason - I saw my first ever West End musical. Eight months or so ago, we managed to get tickets for Row N in the Stalls and now, here we were - me, my eighteen-year-old daughter and my friend Jayne - waiting for the show to start...
Oliver! is at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which is a lovely theatre with reasonably priced souvenirs and concessions. Some tickets are still available, but watch out for which dates the stars are performing, as both Jodie Prenger and Rowan Atkinson have holidays booked and Omid Djalili takes over as Fagin later in the year.
We paid £60 each for our tickets and had picked a Tuesday evening when both Jodie and Rowan were scheduled to perform. We had followed Jodie through the whole 'I'll Do Anything' search for a Nancy and she had been our favourite throughout, so we were looking forward to seeing her.
My daughter and I had a favourite Oliver from the TV series - the little blond Welsh boy, Gwion - and as we walked into the theatre, I spotted a board saying that evening's cast members. I noticed Gwion's name straight away, so was very happy with that. Rowan was listed as Fagin, the rather sexy Burn Gorman (Torchwood's Owen Harper) as Bill Sikes - good, good. But then, I realised - no Jodie! After some enquiries, we discovered she was off ill and we were going to see Tamsin Carroll as Nancy instead. Not a great start. Oh well.
Would the show still be a good one?
Well, it was, it was excellent - although we never quite took to Tamsin Carroll as Nancy! (Tamsin shares the role with Jodie, so should have been good enough, but we felt she was lacking something.) The rest of the cast was really good and we were completely drawn into it all, so the show seemed to go by really quickly and we definitely came out wanting more! (Pun intended!)
The set was amazing, but quite hard to describe. There were mobile stages which meant the action could take place on street level or above (like on the bridge) or below (in Fagin's den). The backdrops also swung round, to change the scenery. It was extremely clever and worked brilliantly to help the atmosphere.
At one point, the set got its own round of applause - and quite rightly! Oliver and the Artful Dodger are standing at street level near a pothole, when the street ruses and underneath, there is Fagin's den - wonderfully intricate with beds for the boys, colourful handkerchiefs and scarves, a heater and a staircase. The boys open the potholes, come down the stairs and are in the den. Fantastic!
It is at this point that we see our first glimpse of the undisputed star of the show - Rowan Atkinson as Fagin. From the first time he appears, your eyes are drawn to him. He displays all the facets of the character - the dark side, the gentler side, his love of possessions, his manipulative nature, his selfishness, his campness! Rowan is Fagin in every respect and uses all his great skills in acting and physical comedy to command the stage beautifully. I have been going to the theatre for over thirty years and I can honestly say this was the best single performance I have ever seen. I can't praise him highly enough. I loved it!
Gwion Wyn Jones is a cute and cherubic Oliver and performs very well, with a beautiful voice. In the 'Consider Yourself' scene, he is upstaged by the Artful Dodger, but otherwise puts on a confident and endearing performance and will hopefully have a long and successful career.
Burn Gorman is a tough and menacing Bill Sikes, though I was slightly disappointed with his musical number. He certainly does it well, but I found myself concentrating again on Rowan's Fagin, who was just sitting to one side, doing very little! In the later scenes though, Burn fully inhabited the role and became much more frightening.
I was surprised the stage play is much darker than the film version we know and love. This stage Oliver! is much closer to the original Dickens text in that respect and this is encompassed in the character of Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker, played by Julian Bleach.
Most of you will not recognise the actor's name or face, but Julian Bleach played Davros in last year's Doctor Who finale and was also a frightening Ghost Maker in Torchwood. He has a wonderfully versatile voice and a face which seems to change for each role. He later appears in Oliver! as Dr. Grimwig and I didn't recognise him until he spoke! He's an extremely talented character actor.
The song and dance numbers are, of course, a big part of this musical and are beautifully executed. I enjoyed all of them, although Tamsin Carroll's rendition of 'As Long As He Needs Me' seemed to lack credibility.
The highlight for me was a song I'm not so familiar with - 'Reviewing the Situation' by Rowan Atkinson. His vocal ability is very good (though not perfect), but his performance was so convincing, it felt like it was just you and him in the theatre and you were having a one-to-one conversation.
I loved the whole show and would definitely go again, if I had the opportunity. To round off a wonderful night, we waited at the stage door and got to meet Rowan Atkinson, who signed our programme and posed for a photo with my daughter.
Well worth the price of the ticket!
Web links -
The soundtrack CD is out to buy on March 16th and you can pre-order it from Amazon UK for £8.98.
Summary: A wonderful West End musical...
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