Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Oliver"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone


Tony Annicone

Director Larry Reedy leads his 57 member cast in Community Players fall presentation of "Oliver" in this 294th show of their 80th season. Larry has chosen the talented ensemble to pull off this musical adaptation of Charles Dickens classic novel Oliver Twist. The well known story of orphan, Oliver ( Matt Rolin) and the assorted good and bad characters he meets along the way is presented on a unit set with the backdrop of London there at all times. Larry is aided by Music director, Michael Savignac who leads the chorus in their haromies especially outstanding is the "Who Will Buy" soloists and chorus. Stage manager, Morgan Ban-Draoi and her assistant Maryann Ricci keeps things flowing in this massive show with 26 kids and 30 adults as Andrew Bobola and Don Gillis keep the cast moving with their dance steps. The darkness of the Dickens novel is brightened by the beautiful music and by a happy! ending for both Oliver and the audience following the misieries of his life to the triumphant reunification with his grandfather at show's end. A family musical everyone can enjoy.

The heart and soul of this show is the character of Nancy. Debbie Gower in red dress is excellent for this role. Her warmth and feeling for the children especially Oliver is displayed in "It's a Fine Life" and her quartet with Dodger, Oliver and Bet. The best and most dramatic moments in the show come after Bill backhands Nancy and she sings of her love for him in "As Long As He Needs Me". The frozen tableau and the pathos of the number comes shining through as Debbie sings the song from the floor after the slap. Her death scene and her scenes in standing up to Bill are expertly done and shows the great depth of her acting ability. Brava.

12 year old Matt Rolin as Oliver makes an outstanding debut in his first role ever. "Where Is Love" is sweet and sentimental and this boy has the vulnerability to sell it to the audience. Matt makes this poor pathetic boy strong in his confrontation scene with Bill Sykes. The books and money belong to Mr. Brownlow not Sykes. The transition is wonderful and this kis has a bright future ahead of him. The other 25 children handle their scenes and songs very well with Kevin Martin's voice standing out in them.

The evil and diabolical Bill Sykes is played by Andrew Bobola. His characterization is so powerful that you could hear a pin drop during his entrance number "My Name". The physical abuse he heaps on Nancy and the other characters in the barroom scene is frightening to behold. He accomplishes this with ease. ( An animated and funny drunk is portrayed by James Pollitt) Andy usually plays funny and nice roles so this dramatic role is a great showcase for his many talents. Other evil characters in this show are Mark Anderson as Fagin and Amy Thompson as the Artful Dodger. Thankfully they are comical evil characters. Mark plays the swarmy man who teaches the children to "Pick a Pocket". Fagin loves his money and treasures but in "Reviewing the Situation" has to keep himself from being hung.Two numbers the audience laughed at and enjoyed. Amy plays the energetic Dodger who convinces Oliver to join the pickpocket ! gang. Her acting in the boy role is very well done and her duets of "Consider Yourself", "I'd Do Anything" and the reprise of "Situation" with Fagin are wonderful. Mark and Amy make a fine pair of funny theives in this show.

The other evil characters include Jordan Cannady as Bumble who has a wonderful tenor voice,the super character actress Connie Altimus as the widow he marries (her song "I Shall Scream" is hysterical where protests his amorous advances while really loving them and her handiwork with smacking the broom on his butt is another laugh out loud moment) John Ricci as the dour funeral owner, Mr.Sowerberry who buys Oliver from Bumble, Micki Silverman as his shrewish wife, Christy McCarthy as their very buxom daughter (I haven't seen Christy in 14 years and said you grew up and her response was and grew out) and Tony Prichard as the snarling bully Noah.

The good characters include Melanie Amaral as Nancy's friend, Bet (She is not only the dance captain but has a beautiful voice, too.), John Baxter as Oliver's long lost grandfather, Mr. Brownlow and Ronn Marshall as Dr. Grimwig (both seasoned actors play their roles very well together giving the crowd some chuckles along the way), Zarie Ahlijanian as the kindly maid, Mrs Bedwin who comforts Oliver with a reprise of "Where is Love" and Myra Schwartz as Old Sally who reveals Oliver's true origins.

A word of praise to everyone who worked on this show especially Mary Reedy for the superb costumes, Larry Reedy and his set people for a gorgeous set and Michael Savignac for his excellent combo and teaching the cast the musical score.

(The 26 chidren did great work on all numbers too.)

"Oliver" (till 3 December)
Jenks Junior High, Division Street, PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide