Non-Equity Oliver!, Inspired by Mackintosh Revisal in London, Starts U.S. Tour Nov. 11

By Kenneth Jones
11 Nov 2003

Renata Reneé Wilson as Nancy in Oliver!
Renata Reneé Wilson as Nancy in Oliver!
Photo by Joan Marcus

The new non-Equity U.S. national tour of Oliver!, based on the Cameron Mackintosh-produced Sam Mendes-Matthew Bourne staging that appeared London and Australia, launches Nov. 11 at Denver's Buell Theatre, opening Nov. 13.

Teching was completed in Saginaw, Michigan, in the past week.

This is the U.S. debut of the slightly revised, slightly darker 1994 revival of the smash Lionel Bart show inspired by Dickens' "Oliver Twist." The tour is "adapted from" the Mackintosh London Palladium staging that premiered Dec. 8, 1994. NETworks Presentations LLC presents the new national tour.

The 35-week touring show is directed by Graham Gill, choreographed by Jeff Garratt (adapted from Bourne's original musical staging) and has the 1990s orchestrations by William David Brohn. Designers are Adrian Vaux (set), Anthony Ward (costumes) and Jenny Kagan (lighting), Peter Grubb/System Sound (sound), Bernie Ardia (hair and makeup design). Dominick Amendum is music director and conductor. The company (on stage and off) totals more than 80.

The cast includes Mark McCracken as Fagin, Renata Renee Wilson as Nancy, Shane R. Tanner as Fagin, Andrew Blau as the Artful Dodger, Justin S. Pereira as Oliver.



The musicals numbers include revised lyrics and a song called "That's Your Funeral," which has been cut in some regional stagings.

The nature of the tour has changed in the past year, since it was first announced in 2002. Producer Cameron Mackintosh told Playbill On-Line in January 2002 that a version of his 1994 London revival of Oliver! would start on a U.S. national tour in 2003; it was later announced that the Ordway Center in St. Paul, MN, would be the launching pad in summer 2003. That has since changed. A star to play Fagin was also sought for a time, when the show was thought to be an Equity affair.

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The 1960 musical of Dickens' "Oliver Twist," by lyricist composer-librettist Lionel Bart, got a splashy large-cast staging by Mackintosh (Les Misérables, Miss Saigon) in 1994 at London's Palladium. Sam Mendes directed and Anthony Ward (Oklahoma!) designed the sprawling sets. Jonathan Pryce starred as Fagin in a production many thought would eventually land on Broadway, where Bart won the Tony Award for his plucky score in 1963.

The touring production is expected to be scaled down in comparison to the large staging in London. "It will be a new production," Mackintosh previously said.

The hugely successful producer of Cats, Miss Saigon, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera said he hopes Broadway will eventually once again hear such classic Oliver! songs as "Consider Yourself," "Where Is Love?," "Food, Glorious, Food" and "As Long as He Needs Me." No Broadway (and, by association) Equity plan for Oliver! has been announced. It is thought Merrick's next Broadway project will be My Fair Lady, though no timetable for that has been announced.

Why didn't Mackintosh's 1994 production of Oliver! make it to Broadway?

"The problem was, quite frankly, the sheer cost of it on Broadway," Mackintosh previously said. "Because of the union rules on children — and it's a show that's powered by children — and the physical production is so enormous, we just couldn't afford to do it."

The London version was darker and grittier than some past productions and crawled with 20 children who served as orphans and pickpockets.

The show has been a favorite of Mackintosh's for years, even before he became a high-powered producer of Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and other international successes (to say nothing of the seven theatres he owns in London). "I think it's a great show," he said. "Once again, a masterful storyteller in Charles Dickens. The one thing that does connect all my musicals is that there's usually a great writer involved."

The 1968 film version of the international hit won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The original 1960 production of Oliver! in London ran 2,618 performances.

For the revised revival in 1994 director Mendes and Bart went back to the original novel for additional dialogue and Bart added new music and lyrics.

For more information, visit www.oliverontour.com.