Oliver! The Palace Theatre
Oliver! is a breath-taking feat in choreography and set design making the already spectacular score by Lionel Bart all the more powerful. The chillingly creepy element that is vivid in Charles Dickens’ depiction of Victorian life but can struggle to come across in productions of the classic tale, is portrayed successfully through the simple use of children walking in sync banging tin bowls and hunched over adults in shadowed corners.
The cast were perfect in their embodiment of each character: Neil Morrissey took on the role of Fagin and dashed all my beliefs that he couldn’t act, let alone sing his way through a whole musical, as soon as he took to the stage. Not only was Morrissey fantastically vile in appearance but he effectively incorporated the self-preserving yet caring nature of the pick-pocket pimp.
Samantha Barks gives a passionate portrayal of Nancy, switching between the youthful glee and heart-break her character encounters with ease. Nancy’s perpetual anguish to follow her conscience and her heart simultaneously is clear in Barks’ performance, particularly in her vocals as she flitted between the wails of torment in As Long As He Needs Me and warmer cockney in Oom-Pah-Pah.
Perhaps the most convincing of the cast in their roles was David Langham as the undertaker to whom Oliver is charged as an apprentice, Mr Sowerberry. His string-bean-like frame emerges from the shadows onto the ‘moonlit’ stage, highlighting his hooked nose and straggly hair. The combination of his lanky figure kitted out in top-hat and tails, and the bob in his step as he approaches Oliver and Mr Bumble out of the shadows is a thrill for the imagination.
The eye-for-detail in set, costume and direction is too much to take in when the cast have flooded the stage to enthrall the audience with another number. In Consider Yourself the stage is awash with street sellers and small children scaling the set like acrobats, picking the pockets of the wealthy, while the choreography continues to excel itself as the chorus integrate their hunched over characters into startlingly fervent routines.
In Who Will Buy the chorus is once more in full flow, hurling one-another about the stage, when in comes a small circus troop hopping on and off each others shoulders, doing the splits mid pirouette while wearing heels and a firework erupting from the end of a walking-stick.
An over-whelming performance in the showmanship and direction of Lionel Bart’s classic score, it did as a musical should, leaving the audience elated with a satisfied imagination and a loop of show-tunes whirring around in your head.