Review: Oliver! The Musical
January 13, 2017
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Last night, I attended the Oliver! invited dress rehearsal. The musical is based on the novel “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens and follows the story of an orphan named Oliver who has lived in a workhouse all his life. After the head of the workhouse, Mr. Bumble, sells him to an undertaker, Oliver runs away and finds criminal Jack Dawkins or “The Artful Dodger” on the streets, who takes Oliver into his band of thieves. The gang of thieves is lead by a man named Fagin, who has taken in orphan children and taught them how to pick pockets. Things quickly go south, however, and soon Oliver is being hunted by Bill Sykes, a violent former thief for Fagin who will stop at nothing to keep Oliver from ratting him out to the police.
I’ll admit, I’m no theater expert, but I was very impressed with this production. In fact, I would never have guessed that it was a high school show; it seems much more advanced. This was not because of the costumes or the sets however, even though they were amazing. It was the acting, especially that of the two thieves, Fagin and Bill Sikes, that truly blew me away. Starting with Fagan, Jack Smith managed to portray the character in a villainous, yet humorous way. I found myself smiling during his songs, although he definitely still came across as an “evil” character. Bill Sikes (Colin Brown) on the other hand, was not amusing in the slightest. I was truly scared watching him from the audience, which is a huge testament to his acting. It’s much harder to play the villain than the hero and still be believable, but Brown completely pulled it off. Another performance that surprised me in the best way was Brittany Young’s wonderful portrayal of Nancy. Her acting along with her voice in her solo numbers was just incredible. The group ensembles were also very enjoyable to watch – especially with the addition of kids from around the community in the opening number, which is set in the orphanage. However, the best part of the entire show was when, during a scene in which Fagin gives Oliver a bottle of gin, a boy no older than five took the bottle and began to pretend to chug from it. While this portion of the show was no doubt unintended, it was certainly the most entertaining.
However, that’s not to say the show was perfect. There were times when I felt the dialogue was a little too fast and unclear for me to keep up with, especially when introducing new scenes and characters, though this was probably more due to technical difficulties than poor acting. Also, there were a few set changes that took long enough for the music to cut out while they were still setting up and left a bit of an awkward silence during transitions. But the only things that I felt really affected the quality of the show for me was when when the microphone cut out for the lead, Oliver (played by Macy Rex). This left gaps in the dialogue and the songs where I wasn’t able to hear what was being said and could only infer what was happening based on the responses of the other characters. Overall, though, these were minor issues that were caused by little technical difficulties and not the incompetence of the actors or stage crew.
All in all, despite small technical difficulties and a few rough patches, which is completely normal for a dress rehearsal, I would 100% recommend this show to anyone who is considering seeing it. The talent that we have in our student body is truly amazing, and everyone should get the chance to see what they can do.