Oliver! Is one of those classic musicals that everyone has heard of, regardless of whether you’re a musical theatre fan or not. Based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, the tale of the orphan boy and his life on the streets of London was the first successful stage adaption of a Dickens work. Lionel Bart’s original production by opened at the New Theatre (now the Noel Coward Theatre) in 1960 and transferred to Broadway three years later. It also spawned the popular 1968 film version.
There have been various West End revivals of Oliver! throughout the years, most notably in 1977, 1994 and 2009; the latter in conjunction with the BBC reality show, I’d Do Anything. Twelve contestants vied for the role of Nancy, which was won by Jodie Prenger. That production ran for two years at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, closing in January 2011.
Like the mythical phoenix, Oliver! has once again risen from the ashes and is embarking on a UK tour, with a first date at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff. It opens on 20th December 2011 with previews from the 10th December. It has confirmed booking until March 2013, visiting the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Southampton, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Newcastle, Leeds and Bristol.
It was officially announced yesterday that Samantha Barks will be playing Nancy on the tour. Barks has enjoyed huge success in Cabaret and Les Miserables – including performing as Eponine in the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert – since her time on I’d Do Anything, where she was one of the three Nancy finalists. The series kick-started her career, so her casting seems particularly fitting as she revisits where it all began. Joining her as Nancy’s villainous lover Bill Sikes is Iain Fletcher, best known for his role as DC Rodney Skase and, as previously announced, Neil Morrissey and Brian Connelly will alternate as Fagin. Harry Polden, last seen in the West End playing the Phantom and Christine’s young son Gustave in Love Never Dies before appearing in Ragtime at the Landor, has been confirmed in the title role of Oliver, which he is expected to share with a selection of other boys.
Other cast members include: Jack Edwards (Mr Bumble); Suzie Chard (Widow Corney); Stephen Moore (Mr Brownlow); David Langham (Mr Sowerberry); CJ Johnson (Mrs Sowerberry); Stevie Hutchinson (Noah Claypole); Emma Dukes (Bet) and Victoria Hay (Charlotte). Also involved in the tour are: Lincoln Hudson, James Gant, Hadrian Delacey, Joe Maxwell, Kade Ferraiolo, Lee Dillon-Stuart, Matt Harrop, Ryan O’Gorman, Annie Wensak, Kara Lane, Claire Parrish, Alison Connell, Sophie Caton, Beth Davies, Mikaela Newton, Paul Farrell, Nicholas Duncan, Sarah Cortez, and Mary Fox.
Many well-known names have appeared in Oliver! over the years. Ron Moody played the original Fagin in both the stage production and film, with Rowan Atkinson and Robert Lindsey being two acclaimed actors who have also taken on the role. Ruthie Henshall, Claire Moore and Kerry Ellis have all played Nancy, with Steven Hartley and Burn Gormon as Bill Sikes. The West End’s very own Jon Lee and Stevie Webb are two actors who, in their childhood days, have portrayed Oliver. The UK musical has been nominated for awards numerous times and includes in its wins an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical (Robert Lindsey) and the WhatsonStage.com Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
Oliver! is the musical that, even when gone, is never forgotten. It has come back to the West End time and time again, but now it’s time for the rest of the UK to feast on this sumptuous production. With such a timeless story, memorable songs and now, an all-new brilliant cast, the UK tour of Oliver! is sure to leave audiences asking, “Please sir, I want some more?”
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
28th October 2011