Nearly NYC: Mackintosh's Oliver! Tour Plays Newark's Prudential Hall March 30-April 4

News   Nearly NYC: Mackintosh's Oliver! Tour Plays Newark's Prudential Hall March 30-April 4
The new non-Equity U.S. national tour of Oliver!, adapted from the Sam Mendes-Matthew Bourne staging that appeared London and Australia, will make its closest brush to Manhattan when it plays Newark, New Jersey, March 30-April 4.

The tour launched Nov. 11, 2003, at Denver's Buell Theatre. The engagement in Newark plays Prudential Hall. It's billed as the only metro New York engagement for the national tour.

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This is the U.S. debut of the 40-actor, 1994 revised revival version of the 1960 Lionel Bart show inspired by Dickens' "Oliver Twist." Cameron Mackintosh produced the revival in 1994 at the London Palladium, and it was thought for a time that the staging with Jonathan Pryce would get a Broadway spinoff. That never materialized. Ken Gentry of NETworks is the current tour's producer.

The 35-week touring show is directed by Graham Gill, choreographed by Jeff Garrett and has the 1994 orchestrations by William David Brohn. Designers are Adrian Vaux (set), Anthony Ward (costumes) and Jenny Kagan (lighting). The company (on stage and off) totals 82. In London, Sam Mendes directed and Anthony Ward (Oklahoma!) designed the sprawling sets for the new Oliver! Their work is now adapted for the national tour.

Lionel Bart won the Best Score Tony Award for the show in 1963.

The touring production is scaled down in comparison to the large staging in London. "It will be a new production," Mackintosh previously said, but it includes elements of the past staging.

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." American producer David Merrick had great success touring the American premiere production of Oliver! and creating a cast album prior to its 1963 Broadway berth.

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

"The problem was, quite frankly, the sheer cost of it on Broadway," Mackintosh 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. William David Brohn provided new orchestrations.

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