REVIEW: Oliver! The Musical

Oliver! The musical has just completed its run at CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center. One question that arises is how can you make a musical out of a book that is focused on poverty in the lower class in England that is 415 pages long? (Oxford Illustrated Dickens) You do it by producing vignettes that highlight key events and persons in the novel.

Flash! You begin with the workhouse scene where Oliver Twist, played adorably by Charlie Norman, wants more gruel. The stage is set.

Flash! You go from the Workhouse Parlour to the Undertaker’s Workshop where we meet Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry played in heartless fashion by Sam Manning and Barbara Myerson Katz, who have just purchased Oliver.

Flash! You’re in Paddington Green where the escaped Oliver is welcomed into Fagin’s ring of pickpockets with “Consider Yourself.”

Flash! Into the Thieves Kitchen we go where Oliver is trained to be a thief by the Artful Dodger, played with bravado by Riley McNerny. Later we will return there where Fagin, played campy-style with a touch of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof, by Michael J. Drury is “Reviewing the Situation.”

Flash! To the Three Cripples bar where arch-villain Bill Sikes, played in menacing fashion by Brian Bowles, is introduced and Nancy, played by Jessica Adamson, who loves him in spite of herself, sings “As Long as He Needs Me.”

Finally, Flash! London Bridge becomes the scene for the denouement where Bill Sikes is dispatched and Oliver is rescued from a life of crime.

Each flash illuminates part of the whole, the music is fine and the sets reflect the seedy side of early Victorian England. Especially noteworthy is the singing and acting of Adamson. She is the heart of the production as her character, Nancy, is the heart of the novel. The musical reflects the heartbreaking poverty of England’s lower class and its unbreakable spirit.

Next up is Big Fish, January 28-February 14. And don’t miss Light Up CenterStage on December 5.

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