Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller
Choreographed by Christopher Carter
Conductor Roger L. Bingaman
Produced by Light Opera Works
At Cahn Auditorium, Evanston
Charming Dickers’ novel comes to life in Evanston with Oliver!
Despite not having an overture, Roger L. Bingham’s full orchestra deftly delivered Lionel Bart’s score with aplomb including all the dark underscoring during the bleak scenes. Oliver! is still o9ne of the finest musical scores in a Broadway show. This very British musical has become a classic after an initial long run in London and New York.
Oliver! is Lionel Bart’s 1963 masterpiece adaptation of Dickens stinging attack on child abuse, urban decay and indifferent social institutions. Bart takes a lighter treatment than Dickens yet the cruelty come through. From the early scenes when the workhouse orphan, Oliver asks for more gruel, he is sold to an undertaker, escapes to London and falls into Fagan’s pick-pocket kid gang, we witness Oliver’s adventures through a collection of memorable, ‘take-home’ songs that include ballads, marches and anthems.
All the colorful Dickens’ characters are present from Mr. Bumble (Cary Lovett ) to Darren Barrere’s charismatic pick-pocket,The Artful Dodger to the loveable gang leader Fagan (James Harms in a funny, deliciously lovable rogue performance), Oliver is surrounded by colorful characters.
Bart’s score contains many tunes that are now Broadway standards. The beautiful, haunting “Where Is Love” sung in full emotional range by the talented 6th grader, 11-year old Michael Semanic was a knockout. Darren Barrere leads the ensemble in the rousing “Consider Yourself,” a showstopper up-tempo march that was cleverly staged. Jim Harms’ comically introduces Oliver to the world of petty crime in “Pick A Pocket or Two.”
Colette Todd is an a terrific Nancy as her wonderful voice to gives Nancy hero status. FShe leads the gang with ”It’s A Fine Life” a satirical catchy spoof of criminal life. Barrere leads the gang in the cute “I’d Do Anything” tribute to Nancy’s motherly caring for the group. “Be Back Soon” is Fagan’s loving salute to his boy pick-pocket gang.
Director Rudy Hogenmiller has the talented ensemble open act two with an English tavern song, “Oom-Pah-Pah” followed by Todd’s stirring ballad “As Long As He Needs Me.” Todd brings the house down with her amazingly emotional delivery. James Harms debates his future as his gang disintegrates in the cleverly written and difficult to land song “Reviewing The Situation.” Harms delivers the subtle nuance-driven song effectively with the craft of a seasoned actor. . He is a fabulous Fagan.
Light Opera Work’s production is well-staged with a fine assortment of youngsters as the kid gang. This ensemble work carries the show with the fines songs and heartwarming Oliver! giving a face to the urban orphans. This is a fine family show that the kids will love (so will us adults).
At Cahn Auditorium,600 Emerson Street, Evanston, IL, call 847-920-5360, www.musictheaterworks.com, tickets $32 – $92, Wednesday, December 26 at 2 pm, Thursday, December 27 at 2 pm, Friday, December 28 at 8pm, Saturday December 29 at 2 & 8 pm, Sunday, December 30 at 2 pm, Monday, December 31 at 8 pm