note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
Christmas is fast approaching and soon "A Christmas Carol" will be playing everywhere ... but if you like your Dickens a bit less festive, then "Oliver!" is your ticket. The Turtle Lane Playhouse in Newton is presenting Lionel Bart's delightful musical about the plucky little orphan who falls in with a gang of theives in i850 London.
Now you might think that herding a dozen orphans about on stage is a daunting task for a director, but Oh Boy! This show is double cast!!! and Director Sharon Bisantz does it with considerable aplomb. One could if one chose --- and I did! --- see both versions of this bittersweet rags-to-riches story ... and each version is quite different from the other.
The two Fagins set the tone of the show ... and TLP can boast two two formidable actors in the role of this kindly (but slimy) elderly fence. Michael Kreutz' Fagin is a cagey old gypsy baron of a ringleader; you'll hear the gypsy violin distinctly in his rendition of the showstopper "You've Got to Pick A Pocket or Two". But you won't even notice the violins when Jim Jordan delivers the same number, because Jordan is a pied piper of a Fagin, crackling with gleeful energy as he instructs the newcomer in pocketpicking. The Kreutz show is more sinister but both pack a wallop.
Life was no picnic in in 19th century England, where children could be bought and sold.The marvel in Bart's musical is that the history is woven into every song.
The two Olivers, Austin DiBari and Triston Viner-Brown, are both charming, and both boys sing gorgeously --- a tribute to both their professionalism and Danny Sullivan's exacting musical direction.
There is but one villain, the murderous Bill Sykes, and Michael Levin as this cutthroat makes him so mean I think he would cut off his own nose to spite his face.
The two Nancys (Whitney Cohen and Jessica Shulman) pull off the victim role with a lot more spunk, but not so much that they're out of their century. Kudos to Chris Moleske for a highly amusing "It's Your Funeral" and to Myles Jacoby for his cheeky, lanky apprentice undertaker.
Jeff Gardiner's foggy London lighting, Ron L. Dion's clever landmark sets, and Richard Itczak's classy class-differentiated costumes contribute to a winning "Oliver!".