Review: Oliver! at Leeds Playhouse

There’s only one word to describe this memorable production of Oliver! at Leeds Playhouse: phenomenal!

The costumes and set really captured an authentic feel of Dickensian London, you could almost feel the smog and smell the smoke. Using the theatre in the round was a masterstroke, making  the audience feel really involved in the story. An unusual step for a musical, it made us feel much closer to the actors and thus the action.

The cast made excellent use of all the stage and the walkways on different levels, drawing everyone into the story, wherever they were sitting. Our seats were right next to one of the platforms so the actors were often very close by making us feel almost part of the action. Set changes were seamless and impeccably done by the cast.

There are so many highlights in Oliver, which makes it really difficult to choose only a few.  However, several aspects were really outstanding for me. The set, lighting and music were superbly done, very atmospheric, expertly setting the scene for the action. We loved all the costumes.

Jenny Fitzpatrick (Nancy) with the company of Oliver! Credit Alastair Muir

For me though, the stars of the show were Steve Furst’s fabulous depiction of Fagin, making him almost likable and West End star, Jenny Fitzpatrick’s Nancy with her glorious singing voice conveying just the right amount of strength and passion.  Judging by their reaction I am sure the audience agreed. My daughter was very impressed by young Oilver himself, who had a great singing voice and was very convincing.

What makes a musical like Oliver! great is that we know most of the songs, whether or not we have ever seen the show. So it is familiar and somewhat comforting to watch, like an old friend. Fagin is such an institution he is often seen as the archetypal baddie – Furst carries this off expertly, playing on the audience’s pre-conceived ideas but making him have a little more depth.

The music was great, the orchestra really matching the vocals expertly. My favourite song ‘Consider Yourself’, not just because it is so well known, but as the cast carried it off with a little extra attitude giving the rendition a new slant. It was really mesmerising and with all the cast taking part it felt as though it was on a truly epic scale. It was difficult to know where to look as there was so much to take in.

The great thing about musical theatre is its wide appeal to all kinds of audiences. This production of Oliver! is no different. Children relate to the child characters and songs and adults can enjoy the whole. It must be challenging to make a successful production of such a well known show and really pull it off but this production really did this. The audience had a great mix of young and old, all captivated by the show.

Oliver! is well worth seeing for adults and children alike, so if you can, take your family along to see for yourself. It is an amazing spectacle and highly recommended. Even my sixteen year old daughter was impressed and that is really saying something! We are now really looking forward to our next theatre experience.

Oliver! runs at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 27 January 2024.  Full details and tickets at: leedsplayhouse.org.uk/event/oliver

 

This post was written by reader Katie Holland in return for two free tickets, as part of South Leeds Goes To The Playhouse.

Main photo:  Fagin’s Gang with Steve Furst (Fagin). Credit Alastair Muir

 

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