“Please Sir (Cameron Mackintosh) can I have some more?”…
Consider yourself in for a treat if you go and visit the Palace Theatre to see Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Oliver! The smash hit ‘cockney’ musical is in Manchester for nearly 2 months, running from 25 Jan to the 10th March, starring Men Behaving Badly’s Neil Morrisey in the role of Fagin.It’s been over 50 years since the show opened in the West End and this new touring production is already proving it’s still a firm favourite with audiences…and celebrities alike. Press night at the Palace Theatre saw a full house that included Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney with his wife Coleen, Sir Bobby Charlton, and numerous past and present cast members from Coronation Street – all humming along to Lionel Bart’s classic tunes, Food Glorious Food, You’ve Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two, and I’d Do Anything.
I have to admit I was a little sceptical about Neil Morrisey’s casting as Fagin as his previous roles have seen him play ‘laddish’ characters – ‘would he really have maturity to bring to the part’? All credit must go to Mackintosh for seeing the potential in Morrisey as he does a fine job of bringing a comedic element to the ‘cunning’ Fagin – even giving a cheeky nod along the way to his time as the voice of animated character ‘Bob The Builder’..can we fix it…yes he can!
Starring alongside Morrisey is the wonderful and talented Samantha Barks* as Nancy. You would be right in thinking you have seen Barks somewhere before as she reached the final three in BBC 1 ‘s talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’ back in 2008, losing out to Blackpool’s Jodie Prenger. 4 years on she has finally landed the role for real and my goodness does she nail it! She may not look the stereotypical Nancy, as she is young and very pretty, but Barks brings a quality to the performance that makes the stage light up when she is on it and has your heart breaking every time she gets rebuked by the menacing Bill Sykes (Iain Fletcher).
A mention must be given to the show’s namesake, Harry Polden, who plays the angelic work-house orphan Oliver. The 12 year old gives a sweeter than sweet rendition of Where Is Love and has a lovely onscreen partnership with Max Greisbach, who plays an energetic Artful Dodger.
Totie Driver and Adrian Vaux do a fantastic job of recreating Victorian London with some great backdrops of the capital’s famous sites including a magnificent recreation of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Watch out for some an epic final sequence where the sets change so fast that you can’t honestly believe that the actors have enough breath to utter the lines with all the running about that is taking place on stage.
Like Mackintosh’s many other productions, Oliver! is a well-oiled show with a slick pace and a cast that gives nothing less than 100% every performance. Oom-Pah-Pah tastic!
Weds 25 Jan – Sat 10 March 2012
Palace Theatre, Oxford Street, Manchester
To book call 0844 871 3019 / www.atgtickets.com/Manchester
*Hot off the Press – Samantha Barks has been cast as Eponine in the soon to be filmed movie version of Les Miserables…watch this space for more news on those developments