Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“Captivate Theatre brings Lionel Bart’s timeless musical back to the Rose Theatre.”
Faithful to the much loved stage and screen versions, you may be familiar with, this rousing version of Oliver was a very satisfying couple of hours at the Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre. Eveyone in the audience knew what we were all here for, and everyone left feeling they had got full value. How do I know that? They were all celebrating their experience on the way out.
A hugely together and talented cast delivered the story the audience had come for, with a tightly played musical score and all the classic numbers hitting the top drawer. Many of the audience rose to their feet at the end and more than one encore was were well deserved. A musical, a story, an example of strong enesemble work – all delivered very well.
So, what happened?
From the first number – Food, Glorious Food! – we knew we were in safe hands. This is the story of an orphan boy, who runs away from the hellish workhouse of Victorian Britain to seek his fortune in London. There he meets the pickpocket, the Artful Dodger and a rag-tag band of children, the brood of the like-able rogue Fagin, who takes the boy in and teaches him how to join in the pickpocketing and stealing that keeps the boys fed and Fagin’s retirement treasure trove topped up. Things do not go to plan and their status quo is blown apart by unfolding events. Dickens’ classic novel was darker than the sentimental version created around the music of Lionel Bart. In this version there is an interesting effect that comes from the necessary cuts that have to made to deliver a Fringe show. The show pivots suddenly, and the world of Fagin, Nancy, Oliver, Dodger and Bill Skyes very suddenly fall into fear and disarray and they are on the run. It all happens within a breath. It becomes sudden high drama in this version.
This company delivers the goods, faithful to that film/musical version and there are songs you won’t recognise if you’ve only seen the film, rather than the stage version. I loved them all. You should know – I have been a lover of this musical for decades.
The story unfolds and the acting is good, with just a few line slips here and there, easily forgotten because this ensemble cast are fully committed, joined up, and able to portray the sense of darkness in the story and the shadows of the workhouse and a London where the rich and the poor mingle via stolen wallets and silk handkerchiefs. A mystery unfolds. Does the boy Oliver have a history that can lend hope to despair, and an ultimate possible happy ending? Go and find out by seeing this enjoyable, musical.
Fagin and Nancy are brilliant, Oliver vulnerable and impish, the Dodger has the requisite cheek and Bill Sykes had me diving for cover as he marched threateningly through the audience. The rest of the cast support in all the right ways. There is more scope for more developed and tighter choreography in places as the whole cast deserve a larger stage; it was a bit crowded in parts.
Overall, a very good show indeed and I am more than happy to celebrate this full-hearted and impressive version of Oliver! at the Fringe.