Directed by Tron Sutton
Produced by Artisan Center Theater
Reviewed by Jenny Wood
Confession: Until Saturday night, I had never watched or listened to Oliver! all the way through in one sitting. I read an abridged version of the book it’s based on as a kid (the Great Illustrated Classics edition if you're curious), and I vaguely remember maybe watching the movie version at school.
Disclosing this feels confessional because, as Director Tron Sutton writes in the Director’s Note for Artisan Center Theater’s production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, “Oliver! is a musical masterpiece, based on the Charles Dickens novel ‘Oliver Twist’. Oliver! is a Tony and Olivier Award-winning show and is one of the few musicals to win an Academy Award of Best Picture”.
For those, like me, who need a refresher, Sutton graciously goes on to synopsize the show: “... we follow Oliver, a malnourished orphan, in a workhouse, as he becomes the neglected apprentice of an undertaker. We will follow Oliver as he escapes to London and finds acceptance amongst a group of petty thieves and pickpockets led by Fagin, an ode to finding love, hope, joy, and optimism leading to being adopted by the benevolent Mr. Brownlow.”
Artisan’s Mainstage is a small but well appointed theater in the round. On three of four walls there are projection screens utilized throughout to establish location so that the performance space need not be cluttered by set pieces. This allows plenty of space and flexibility for the large cast to play to all sides, but those who prefer a more traditional view of the stage should sit in the “North” section. Erika Durham’s costuming and Hayden Beaty’s choreography effectively communicate time, place, character and class in places where the “freely adapted” book and lyrics are ambiguous.
Artisan has utilized double casting for this show. At the performance I attended, the key players included: Owen Carlton as Oliver, Jack Horton as The Artful Dodger, Jayden Banks as Nancy, Bill Combs as Fagin, and Daniel Sontag as Bill Sikes. However, this truly is an ensemble show with a cast of almost 50 performers, ages Tiny Tim to Dame Maggie Smith, identified in the program. It is a testament to the cohesiveness of this cast and everyone's exceptional performance! Banks’ performance is of note, especially in "As Long As He Needs Me," which was still playing in my head the following morning.
Oliver! Continues at Artisan Center Theater through October 7.
Audience Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including 15 minute intermission
Accessible Seating: Available
Hearing Devices: Not Available
Sensory Friendly Showing: Not Available
ASL Showing: Saturday September 9 matinee performance
Production Sound Level: Uncomfortably LoudNoises and Visuals to Prepare For: None of note