Oliver!

The Grand Theatre, Leeds
18 – 22 November 2008

Based on the Charles Dickens novel, Oliver became a musical in 1960 from the pen of Lionel Bart, who won Tony awards for both his music and lyrics. Featuring the well loved songs – ‘Food Glorious Food’, ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’, ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’, ‘Where is Love’, ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ and many more.

The musical opens in a workhouse, as the half-starved orphan boys are entering the enormous lunchroom for dinner. (‘Food Glorious Food’) They are fed only gruel. Nine year old Oliver Twist (actually identified as thirteen in the libretto but generally played as much younger) gathers up the courage to ask for more. He is immediately apprehended and is told to gather his belongings by Mr Bumble and the Widow Corney, the heartless and greedy caretakers of the workhouse (‘Oliver!’). Mr Bumble and Widow Corney start flirting during conversation. Mr Bumble goes too far in (‘I Shall Scream!’). Oliver comes back and is promptly sold (‘Boy for Sale’) and apprenticed to an undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. He and his wife taunt Oliver with the song (‘That’s Your Funeral’). He is sent to sleep in the basement with the coffins, something which makes him visibly uncomfortable. (‘Where is Love?’).

LAOS Food Glorious Food

The next morning bully Noah Claypole, who oversees Oliver’s work, badmouths Oliver’s dead mother, whereupon Oliver begins pummeling him. Mr. Bumble is sent for, and he and the Sowerberrys lock Oliver in a coffin, but during all the commotion Oliver escapes. After a week on the run, he meets the Artful Dodger. He beckons Oliver to join him with (‘Consider Yourself’). Dodger, a pickpocket, invites Oliver to come and live in Fagin’s lair. Fagin is a criminal, and he is in the business of teaching young boys to pick pockets. Oliver is introduced to Fagin and all the other boy pickpockets, and is taught their ways in (‘You’ve got to Pick a Pocket or Two’).

The next day, Oliver meets Nancy, girlfriend of the evil, terrifying Bill Sykes, a burglar whose abuse she endures because she loves him. Nancy and Oliver take an instant liking to each other. Bet, Nancy’s younger sister, is also with her. Nancy, along with Bet and the boys, sing about how they don’t mind a bit of danger in (‘It’s a Fine Life’). Dodger humorously starts pretending to be an upper-class citizen, (‘I’d Do Anything’), along with Fagin, Oliver, Nancy, and Bet. Oliver is sent out with the other boys on his first pickpocketing job (‘Be Back Soon’). The Dodger and fellow pickpocket Charley Bates rob Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy old man, they run off, leaving the shocked Oliver to be blamed for looking guilty. Brownlow thinks that Oliver is the thief, but Oliver is cleared in court.

Act II

To make up for his error, the wealthy Brownlow takes Oliver to live with him, noticing something vaguely familiar about him. In the evening the bar is full of people having a good time and Nancy is called upon to sing an old tavern song (‘Oom Pah Pah’). Bill Sykes enters and sings (‘My Name’), and gets the crowd to leave. Dodger runs in and tells Fagin about Oliver being captured. Fagin and Bill decide that they have to kidnap Oliver to keep him from revealing their whereabouts and secrets. Nancy is asked to participate, but she refuses, until Bill slaps her around. She tries to convince herself that he really loves her and expresses her need for him with the co-dependent anthem, ‘As Long As He Needs Me’.

LAOS Oom pah pah!

Meanwhile the next morning, at Mr. Brownlow’s house, Oliver reprises (‘Where is Love?’). The street vendors outside sing the song (‘Who Will Buy?’). Mr. Brownlow and Dr. Grimwig discuss Oliver’s condition. They send him to return some books to the bookseller for Mr. Brownlow. Nancy and Bill show up and grab Oliver and bring him back to Fagin’s, where Nancy saves Oliver from a beating from Sykes after the boy tries to flee but is stopped. Nancy reprises (‘It’s A Fine Life’). When Sykes and Nancy leave, Fagin ponders his future in the humorous song (‘Reviewing the Situation’).

Nancy, terrified for Oliver and feeling guilty, visits Brownlow and promises to deliver Oliver to him safely that night at midnight on London Bridge – if Brownlow does not bring the police or ask any questions. Bill finds out, grabs Oliver, and runs off with him, leaving the body of a beaten Nancy behind for Brownlow to find. After they exit Fagin and his boys, terrified at the idea of being apprehended, leave their hideout in panic. Not finding Bill the crowd and police pursue him and eventually, Bill releases Oliver who is then reunited with Mr. Brownlow.

Fagin re-enters, making sure not to be seen by anyone, and sings a reprise of ‘Reviewing the Situation’.

LAOS Oliver!

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