Having enthralled generations with his performance on both stage and screen as Fagin in Oliver Twist, Ron Moody is a true star of yesteryear. Performing his one-man show (with a sidekick to ask some well-rehearsed questions), Moody shambled on stage with a walking stick before throwing it up in the air and declaring he just had it for show - it was as if we were watching a conversation with someone trying to communicate with their semi-senile grandfather who one moment couldn’t remembere what he was saying, and then came up with a brilliant anecdote and story from 60-odd years ago. How much was rehearsed and how much it was genuine I have no idea, but if it was strictly scripted then it is a testament to what a fantastic actor Moody still is.After the initial Q&A conversation starter, Moody remained on stage alone taking us through his life experiences and career ups and downs, sharp as a button but reading from notes as he said he forgets everything. One moment he was trailing off sentences halfway through, and the next breaking into a powerful segment of ‘Nessum Dorma’, it was obvious that the doddery grandad routine was all a show – or was it?
Consisting of a potted history of his life and how he became an actor while studying at London School of Economics (LSE), Moody spoke in detail about early student revues he performed in and urging the audience to pay more attention to this genre of theatre. He also spoke of how he studied all aspects of tragi-comedy to play Grimaldi in a story of the iconic clown’s life and career.Of course a large part of the show was dedicated to explaining how he came to be cast as Fagin in the 1960’s stage show of Oliver!, before winning the same part in the legendary 1968 film Oliver Twist for which he is so well-known, winning a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance. Having made the rare successful translation from stage to screen, Moody treated us to stories of old Hollywood, and took us on a whistle-top tour of some of the forgotten singers from by-gone eras, treating us to impressions and renditions of much-loved classics by stars such as Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra – all served up with some very funny one-liners which had the audience enthralled one minute and giggling the next. He then movingly implored of some lesser-known stars ‘Why are they forgotten? They shouldn’t be allowed to be forgotten’ which reinforced how special it was to be sitting there listening to him.
One of my favourite moments was a great Hitchcock impression after which he had a moan about Anthony Hopkins taking the lead role in the current Hitchcock film, saying he would have played the part much better….’I mean, who IS this Anthony Hopkins?’ he asked cheekily. Moody has a fantastic voice as well as great comic timing allowing him to perform impressions of singers and performers from all eras, nationalities and genres – what an absolute star.Charming, self-deprecating, hugely talented and very funny, Moody ended his show with a Q&A session with the audience, which resulted in some more career stories as well as a few lessons in life – describing how he looks back on his life and career as 7 years up and 7 years down (quipping ‘I’m not sure which one I’m in at the moment, but I haven’t got much work on’), and suggesting that we look upon every moment as changing our lives – asked how he stayed so young-spirited he explained that his mind-set meant he was always looking for change, moving forward and not repeating things (unless they are really good).
After the show Moody spent a long time in the lobby patiently signing copies of his new autobiography, spending time talking to avid fans (one fan dressed in a Doctor Who-style outfit brought along some old Ron Moody vinyl and other memorabilia to be signed and I caught him queuing up twice so he could meet his idol again!). I had a chat with Mr Moody, got his autograph and had a photo taken with him, and he was as charming, endearing and cheeky in person as he was on stage. Part living-legend, part doddery grandad – I now love Ron Moody and it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and see this very special show.And not forgetting – all together now…..‘You’ve gotta pick a pocket or two….’