Dec 172009

Today I’m looking at Oliver! the hit West end musical, as I continuing my series for the magazine of my top 5 classic shows. These are the shows that I think everyone could enjoy whatever their musical taste, and I feel that should definitely hold true for Oliver! London today is still  in some ways related to the brutal city that Dickens portrays, but Oliver’s magic comes from more than just the story. It is the heart, passion and spectacle of the production that keeps Oliver! London’s own popular choice for musical theatre breaks.

Oliver! London Theatre At It’s Best

I think Oliver! is a great choice for a theatre break. The elements of an emotional story from the master storyteller, a superb cast and  wonderful songs we all already know and love is hard to beat. Add in some delightful urchins, a backdrop of semi-familiar London sights and you have got a real treat!

The Story, Oliver! London musical

The musical version of Oliver! is not quite as bleak a vision as that of the book. Fagin is transformed and although still a rogue he does have moments of being almost lovable. We are treated to some marvelous set pieces like the scene in the orphanage and of course Fagin’s Den with his band of ragamuffins. What happens to Nancy is still a shock but in the end good triumphs over evil and we all have the feeling we’ve just enjoyed a wonderfully satisfying meal with all the trimmings.

The Cast of Oliver!

Oliver London

Oliver London

We all followed the story of Jodie Prenger as she fought her way through each round of I’d Do Anything but few of us realised what a great Nancy she would actually be. Since the show started back in December 2008 Jodie has consistently given stunning performances. She has provided the chore around which a number of Olivers and Fagins have been able to weave their own interpretations of Dickens’s heart-breaking story. Without a totally believable, warm and lovable Nancy the whole story would fall flat.  Jodie has filled that role with a passion.

Soon, though, Jodie is moving on and the next few months will give us our last chance to see her in the role.  That alone would be enough to make this a ‘must see’ show but the exciting news is that the wonderful Kerry Ellis is going to take over in the role. Kerry has a very different quality to her voice and I think she will give us a much more waif like Nancy. In some ways her fragility with that inner steel that she showed so well in her performances as Elphaba (Wicked) will be much closer to Dickens’s vision. It’s going to be an interesting transfer and  one that will definitely be worth seeing.

The newest member of the cast at the moment is Griff Rhys Jones who has just taken over as Fagin. He will be in the show for at least the next 6 months and seems to be relishing the part of the wily, old scoundrel. Jones has a good strong voice and plenty of West End experience having won a double Olivier award for his roles in Charlie’s Aunt and An Absolute Turkey

Also new in the current cast  is Stephen Hartley, though he is far from new to the role of Bill Sikes. He played Sikes in the Palladium production of Oliver in the 1990s. Physically he is closer to Dickens’s description of Sikes than the role is sometimes played and none the worse for that.

The Music

I think I’ll just let the music speak for itself!

Hotels for Oliver! London Theatre Breaks

As Oliver! plays at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane I’d go for a central hotel, somewhere like the 4* Strand Palace would be ideal. It is definitely a bit of affordable luxury and is close to the theatre and to the shops, restaurants and bars of Covent Garden. If you are on a slightly tighter budget the 3* St Giles Hotel is only 1/2 a mile away and is jolly nice.

So there you have it, a quick guide to Oliver! London, one of my top 5 choices for theatre breaks. You can click through to read more about Oliver! London.

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