I have a confession to make… I have never read anything by Charles Dickens. I managed to go through all of my education, including studying English at degree level, bypassing Dickens entirely and have never chosen to read his works for the fun of it.
I’m not completely oblivious to him though. I’ve seen various films with their take on A Christmas Carol and I’ve seen the musical Oliver! several times on TV and more recently on stage at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre. It was a fantastic night, and despite the guy in front of me with the big head obstructing my view and the fanatical woman behind me singing along, it was an amazing show.
Brian Conley was the star power, putting bums in seats. This was the third time I have seen him on stage; the first in Hairspray and the second in a Cinderella pantomime and he never fails to deliver on the comedy. A great casting choice for the character of Fagin, with some good one-liners.
What always astounds me about seeing this musical though, is the talent of the children involved; the orphans and other members of Fagin’s gang. They can sing, dance and act and are all aged between 6 and 14. Small people with big talent. Makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life. The boy to play the main character of Oliver on the night I was there, was Harry Polden, a 12 year old who has already been in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and another version of Oliver!. 12 years old and already he’s done so much, and he’s not done yet; according to the programme he is to appear in an upcoming version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, filmed for the BBC.
Moving onto the show itself… it was brilliant! There was just something about the atmosphere, the singing and the dancing, that gave me chills. I can’t speak technically about musicals or theatre in general, but as an unbiased opinion, the average Joe just watching, I can say that I thought it was faultless. Everything flowed effortlessly. It was fun, but also dramatic, and very powerful.
I’m not exactly sure about how true it is to the original Dickens’ text. Obviously there wasn’t any music involved in his story but is that the only difference? I might just have to pick up a book to find out, and change the fact that I have never read anything by Charles Dickens.