Oliver! From Page to Stage

The Charles Dickens Museum presents Oliver! From Page to Stage, an exhibition in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Lionel Bart’s hit musical originally opening in the West End on 30 June 1960.
 
The relationship between Dickens’s Oliver Twist and the stage is the subject of a new exhibition on display in the house where the original story was written, now the Charles Dickens Museum. Oliver! From Page to Stage traces the history of the world-wide popularity of the tale of the young orphan Oliver Twist, bringing together for the first time the unique collections of the Charles Dickens Museum, the Cameron Mackintosh Archive and the Lionel Bart Archive.

Visitors can see key artifacts including Dickens’s original manuscripts, costumes from the musical, stage props and a 1:25 model of the current production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  The exhibition is now open and will run until the Museum closes for refurbishment in 2011 in preparation for the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth in 2012.

Also on display are six oil paintings of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane by Francis Hamel Cook.    In 2008 following a commission to do two paintings for the main foyer of Wyndham’s Theatre, Francis was allowed access to sketch rehearsals for Oliver!    Capturing an ever-changing stage scene from the shadowy half-light of the auditorium was a challenge that he relished.   
  
Sir Cameron Mackintosh on this project:  I’m delighted that the 50th Anniversary of Lionel Bart’s Dickens of a musical “Oliver!” is being marked by this special exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum.  

Florian Schweizer, Director of the Charles Dickens Museum: “We are honoured to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Oliver! in the house where Charles Dickens created the original story over 160 years ago. This exhibition shows just how popular and important Oliver Twist has become in world culture and how theatrical adaptations have contributed to the enduring success of the novel. Dickens himself was one of the greatest stage performers of the Victorian age; this collaboration between the Museum and the Drury Lane production of Oliver! would undoubtedly have inspired Dickens. We are pleased to present this must-see exhibition which also marks the first phase of the redevelopment of the Museum for the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth in 2012.”

For more information, go visit www.dickensmuseum.com

Hair The Musical Now on Sale!

Public Theater Production in Association with Cameron Mackintosh is launching Hair The Musical in West End at Gielgud Theatre from 1st of April 2010.

For the first time in West End history, an entire original Broadway cast transfers to the London stage! Don’t miss this Tony Award winning company currently wowing audiences and critics alike in New York.

A celebration of life, love and freedom, and a passionate cry for hope and change, HAIR features some of the greatest songs ever written for the stage, including ‘Let The Sun Shine In’, ‘I Got Life’, ‘Hair’ and ‘Aquarius’.

HAIR is about a group of young people in New York City’s East Village who band together as a TRIBE. They are a New York contingent of flower children, (a freeform phenomenon that had begun a little earlier in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco and would subsequently spread to Europe & elsewhere). Taking on the feel of an American Indian tribe, they question authority and the society they are living in and the war in Asia. They seek to find a new way. They yearn to change the world. They begin by recreating themselves. They find a potent organic natural esthetic; the most dramatic visible element, all the men grow their hair long. They tune in to Eastern thought & meditation. They turn on and drop out. They hang out in self-made clouds of incense and grass. They laugh and cavort, as they find a new freedom of expression and camaraderie. They live in crash pads, in the parks and on the streets. Unkempt, wild, free, and deep, they are unique, colorful, something genuinely original and beautiful…and so hip (yet in a different style from the earlier hipsters and beatniks). A new word is coined to identify them. They come to be called hippies. They try to live by the philosophy of “Peace and Love.” They are on a trip of liberation. They commune, join hands in protest and in song. Within the context of the play, they struggle for the light, but are forced to fight & die, only to be reborn, again to suffer more, then to rise from the ashes, to glow, to shine…

The authors of HAIR played with the idea that this movement was connected astrologically to the heavens, to the coming of the Age of Aquarius.

Book Tickets for Hair the Musical at Gielgud Theatre!

Review: Pick your Pockets so you can go see Oliver!

Oliver the Musical was written by Lionel Bart.  It is directed by Rupert Goold & Matthew Bourne and produced by Cameron Mackintosh in association with the Southbrook Group Limited.  Cast, crew, stagehands, and management (all concerned) have really done a fabulous job with this musical.  The Drury Lane Theatre is a perfect theatre to host this funtastic show.  It is likely one of the larger theatres I’ve been in so far – very grand in size.  It is clean.  Its colors of cream, tan, red curtains, wood stained walls with gold accents add to its style.  The seats are stylish and comfortable enough.  Staff / ushers seem friendly.  There are crests and emblems on the fronts of the boxes adding to the character.  The theatre was a nice temperature.  A couple comments not so favourable would be that the exit doors aren’t very clearly marked.  Oh, they are clearly marked ‘exit’ but do not indicate where they exit to.  People would go out the wrong doors at intermission… doors that lead nowhere, certainly not to the bathroom or bar and we tend to follow the pack so where one goes, others follow.  The soft drinks were room temperature thereby requiring that I get a glass with ice which I dislike as it prevents me from being able to clap properly when the show restarts.  With a bottle and twist cap, I can reseal it when not drinking.  I’m not sure what was going on coming out of the theatre but traffic wasn’t flowing very smoothly (people seemed to be bumping into others or not knowing where to go, etc.) and the bike taxis parked on the sidewalk prevented ease of flow of foot traffic and vehicle traffic.  Minor things really, but just wanted to comment. 

I wouldn’t want to sit further back than Rows R/S in the Stalls as the full stage is used and there are times when there are actors up high (i.e.: on a bridge, etc.).  You can still see them but any further back and you might find yourself leaning forward to see.   Having said that, I think you still get the gist of what is going on. 

I must comment that there are not many shows these days which are totally kid friendly.  While, appreciatively, there was no swearing in this show, there is a pub scene which has some (perhaps unnecessary) adult-related acts / movements / suggestions that kids really don’t need to be exposed to.  Does it add to the musical?  Maybe.  Will it be missed if not there?  Probably not.  Are there other things that can be done to fill the time that would be just as amusing?  Probably.  It’s not as bad as I’ve seen in other shows and sadly enough our kids are exposed to this or worse on a daily basis but does that mean it should be the norm??  No.  Is their death in this show… yes… but not gory to the eyes – thank you for that.

This next comment is for the theatre goers.  They ask you to turn off your mobiles for a reason… it is distracting.  Whether it is ringing or you have it on vibrate… the light is distracting as well.  Unless you’re expecting an emergency / need someone to get hold of you at any time… turn it off all together – please.

Everyone must have heard of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.  It’s a book, movies, and a musical.  And why not… it’s a story everyone can be drawn to with misfortune, love, greed, sadness, and a happy ending.  Really, what’s not to love about this classic story and about this timeless musical?  There’s absolutely not one thing not to love!

I was thoroughly impressed with the whole package… the costumes looked so authentic, the actors all talented, the music absolutely terrific, and the set – well, I cannot say enough about the set.  It is absolutely amazing how you feel like you’re on a London dock on a foggy night or how the cobbled street looks like it goes on for miles or how the night sky looks so real or how you feel you’re underground in Fagin’s accommodations.  The buildings look so real along with everything else.  Also, the use of the walkway on the other side of the Orchestra just gives an added depth / interest.  I could write forever just about the set.  It is truly the most magnificent set I have ever seen.

A gentleman who was sitting beside me, a fellow Canadian, saw Oliver 25 years ago for the first time in London and he was seeing it again last night.  He only had good things to say… about Oliver back then and Oliver now.  He did say that technology has come such a long way.  I was looking on the internet and saw clips of different Oliver Musicals over the years.  I remember seeing one that had just a drawing of buildings as the backdrop and while I’m sure that worked back then, you’ve come a long way, baby!

When the show first started I thought… ‘What’s all the hype about’ but it didn’t take long to get into it (only a few moments – the first musical number had me).  I was totally amazed at the number of children in this musical… and bless them… they were absolutely terrific.  Oliver has a voice of an angel… Dodger is a likeable sort… but the littlest thief stole my heart.  Fagin’s ‘dears’ were all wonderful.  Honestly, I don’t know how the kids do it performance after performance… but they don’t miss a beat and just show so much energy and talent.  Nancy is like a big sister to the children and takes a shining to Oliver Twist who isn’t your run of the mill pickpocket.  Dolly Parton’s ‘bigger sister’ is in the musical – you’ll recognize her when you see her and you will see her.  Bill Sikes is a scary character but you know he does a good job at acting when he makes you hate him.  It’s nice to see him smile after the show is done when they’re taking their bows… he no longer looks menacing.  And Sikes has a pooch (Bull’s Eye?)… a sweet little four-legged character who although not seen much throughout the show, certainly does well when he is playing his parts.  There are so many characters to acknowledge… truly they are all brilliant but I don’t have that much room.  I will touch base on one more though… Fagin, played by Omid Djalili.  He is an absolute scream.  His dances, his songs, his jokes… for not such a nice man, you’ll become endeared to him.  And, what can we say… we have to give mention once more to the namesake… there wouldn’t be a show without OLIVER!

This is a classic story… one which everyone knows and loves.  The way it comes to life on the stage at the Drury Lane Theatre is worth experiencing.  Pick your pockets so you can become engaged with the beloved story of Oliver – only your own pockets though or you’ll be joining Fagin’s ‘dears’ in the workhouse!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Book Tickets for Oliver at Theatre Royal Drury Lane