Got to see Oliver today at the NAC. 🙂 It’s a preview show, which means they let the audience in, but the director and people are sitting in front taking notes on what needs changing, and the real real show isn’t on until Friday. Dress rehearsal writ large.
Pros: Nancy. Also Fagin and Charley, but Nancy was amazing. She was less starry-eyed than I’ve seen her played before, and it made “As Long As He Needs Me” a lot more touching; I hadn’t noticed the line When someone needs you,/You love them so quite so clearly before, or started to unpack it. It was much more a portrayal of a codependant adult than an ingenue.
Also, they had a magician consultant listed in the program (I will check the exact title shortly); I had no idea why, until “You’ve Got To Pick a Pocket or Two”, when there were silk scarves appearing and disappearing all over the stage, plus Dodger flicking a silk scarf up and suddenly holding a cane in “I’d Do Anything”, as if the fabric had unfolded into one. Seriously impressive, especially sitting in the fourth row from the stage. (Charley was doing most of it, I think; I actually went looking at the program expecting to find that he`d been the magician consultant.)
Cons: Casting an adult as Oliver made it a bit harder to swallow some of the lines, particularly the ones that refer to how small he is, and it was weird to see Dodger as smaller and slighter than Oliver, although the actress handled it really well. And I found that the mob scene and Bill’s death were rather quick and flat.
(A note: the last performance of Oliver that I saw involved Bill Sykes running from the maddened mob, a light-and-shadow show, and him eventually falling from a rookery, getting tangled in some lines hanging therefrom, and strangling. Yes, onstage. It’s hard to top that.)
Flipside, the lingering on Charley and Bet picking up Nancy’s body to take it away was well-done. The program included a rather grim photo of group of children (identified only as “from the period”), and the tone of the picture–which I can, at the moment, only describe as being worn and possibly foredoomed–was notably not absent from the play. I mean, it didn’t overwhelm it–I can’t actually imagine a grim and foredoomed rendition of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”–but it was there. Clearly not a setting where the greatest complaint children have is that the gruel is bland and a bit sparse, you know?
I was also rather surprised the Bill Sykes didn’t show up until the second act. Apparently that’s not unusual, so I suppose that’s more a reflection of how much the relationship between Bill and Nancy impressed me–has always impressed me about the story–than anything unusual about the staging.
 …and it’s beginning to occur to me that I’ve seen two performances of Oliver, but never the movie. May look into that, since the person I was with was observing that he thought the choreography was very like the movie.
 Okay, now I can. But I couldn’t before, and it’s still jarring.