Oliver ***

25Jan09

Cameron Mackintosh Presentation, Royal Theatre Drury Lane, London
Friday 12th December 2008 – currently booking to Saturday 18th July 2009

The creators of the reality television show I’ll Do Anything were very clever; reminding the UK population how much they love the Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! and subsequently attracting an audience that is not necessarily the theatre-going type. They then suitably catered for their audience with a sleek, constantly changing, fast paced, television-like production, complete with their new favourite reality stars and other famous television faces. The creators’ cleverness has, undeniably, paid off, with record breaking sales and regular full houses in the large Royal Theatre Drury Lane. The audience certainly do lap up what they are served, yet, this reviewer wonders if Cameron Mackintosh’s newest production of Oliver! is anything new or if it is really needed.

The quality of the set and staging cannot be denied, as the whole performance is beautifully crafted on the vast theatre space. The cast boasts over eighty performers and the sequences involving all of these performers are truly epic. The children performers are directed flawlessly and seem perfectly aware of their likeability. I’ll Do Anything winner, Jodie Prenger, portrays a typical Nancy, which is a very honest presentation of the character. Prenger, undeniably, commands the stage in the energetic “Oom-Pah-Pah” opening to the second act and is well received, through the entire performance, by the audience. Likewise, Rowan Atkinson’s Fagin is well pitched for the audience and is mostly played for comic purposes, although, it could be argued, his performance went against the character’s sinister nature in Dickens’ book.

The lack of devoted, theatrical, Dickensian style is the productions main drawback. The colourful London is far from other darker presentations of Dickens’ works and this flaw is assisted by the light, contagious music. Overall, the musical is at home in the Royal Theatre Drury Lane and is much adored by the audience, although lacking the Dickensian grit.

TF

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