One of the world’s most iconic musicals is heading to the Trinity Theatre this winter.
Oliver! – there are few who have been to the West End or even just Central London itself who don’t know the name that’s near always been spelt out in lights across some of the biggest theatres.
The hit musical played for over three years at the London Palladium (1,366 performances), grossing £40 million at the box office and has been performed in 22 different languages. This ever-popular musical production is in constant demand, but what is it about the loveable scamp Oliver Twist that leaves people always asking for more?
If you’re middle-aged or beyond, Lionel Bart’s classic songs will be woven somewhere into the fabric of your existence; whether you’ve been asking “Where is love?” or cheering “Food Glorious Food” over that scrumptious Christmas dinner. However you know the tunes, it’s clear that Bart’s influence has not disappeared since his death in 1999.
Lionel Bart came from an exceptionally poor background and clearly found Oliver’s plight, as well as the instinct for survival that drives Fagin, identifiable. Bart had no training and lacked professional craft, but hit after hit poured out of him as well as rich and entertaining characters. They all have what Bart had: heart.
The characters in Oliver! will remain with the audience long after the curtain falls. And it’s not just the audience that feel this bond. Hollywood star Michael Caine was brought to tears when he was rejected at his audition for the show in 1960 – although he may now breathe a sigh of relief that he wasn’t committed to such a long run.
The show has always attracted the crème de la crème of performers. Artists who have appeared as Fagin include Russ Abbott, Jim Dale, Roy Hudd, Barry Humphries, Robert Lindsay, Ron Moody, Jonathan Pryce, Rowan Atkinson, Omid Djalili and Griff Rhys Jones. Rowan Atkinson himself said that once Fagin had been put into his head by producer Cameron Mackintosh, it was impossible to get him out, despite turning down the role when first offered.
One of the beautiful aspects of Oliver! is its ability to send you away feeling uplifted in spite of its dark source material. Though so much of the music does reflect the bleakness of Dickens’ murderous tale there’s still the good amongst the bad and the hope underlying the despair that leaves you feeling like life just isn’t that bad after all.
Oliver Twist has always been one of Dickens’ absolute masterpieces and we never get tired of the tale of the little boy who asked for more. Our urge to see Oliver safe is heart-warming and reassuring. It still seems extraordinary that Lionel Bart has written such breath-taking music that tugs so violently at the heart-strings and brilliantly brings this classic story to life.
Oliver! will be at Trinity Theatre from Thursday 10 December to Sunday 3 January. Please visit www.trinitytheatre.net or call 01892 678 678 for performance times and prices.