Fraught with beautiful and boisterous melodies, 'Oliver' is an enduring story.
By GARRY L. CLARK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
NILES -- Trumbull New Theatre opened its second production of the season, "Oliver," Friday evening with a rousing high-energy performance by the entire cast.
Based on Charles Dickens' classic, "Oliver Twist," the musical tells a tale of hardship and abuse suffered by orphans and women in England's Victorian age. Young Oliver, an orphan, is deemed by the powers that be to be a troublemaker, merely for having the audacity to say, "Please, I want some more," at mealtime. Sold to an undertaker and his loudmouthed wife, he escapes by running away to London and falls in with a gang of street urchins who work as pickpockets for a smarmy but friendly thief, Fagin.
In the course of his adventures he meets up with the Artful Dodger, the evil Bill Sykes, Mr. Bumble and the gentle, mistreated Nancy. A charge of stealing finds him face to face with his own grandfather, though he doesn't know it. Kidnapped shortly after and returned to the thieves, an act of kindness meets with murder, and ultimately leaving Oliver with a chance to find happiness.
Fraught with beautiful, tender melodies as well as boisterously joyful ones, "Oliver" is an enduring story, and TNT's production was of the highest caliber.
Cast: Featured in the title role is Robert Brooks, who fairly shined as the young orphan. Marifrances Conrad gave a splendid rendition as the Artful Dodger, as did Tim McGinley as Mr. Bumble, and JoAnn Winterbauer as the Widow Corney.
Tim Cassidy, the production's director, also took a turn as Mr. Sowerberry, giving a hilarious rendition of the nervous, stuttering, henpecked undertaker. Every bit his equal was Amy Burd's blustery, bossy personification of his wife, Mrs. Sowerberry.
The evil Bill Sykes was well-played by Jim Kilgore, and turning in nice performances as supporting players were Dave Lynn as Mr. Brownlow, Kathy Gray Farthing as Mrs. Bedwin, Fred Brunetti as Dr. Grimwig, and Tom Bucco as the night watchman.
Connie Cassidy gave her usual excellent performance as Nancy, giving tender renditions of "Who Will Buy?" and "As Long as He Needs Me."
Turning in a stellar rendition of Fagin was Al McKinnon, whose timing was excellent as was his singing of "Reviewing the Situation."
The large company comprising the chorus were in fine form, moving effortlessly between characters for various scenes. The truly great stars of this production, however, were those playing the workhouse orphans/Fagin's thieves. These kids (well, a few adults were sprinkled in) were amazing with their high energy and boisterous singing of "Food Glorious Food" and "Consider Yourself." Space does not permit naming each one, but they deserve special recognition for an outstanding performance.
Production values: Cassidy has assembled a very large, fine cast for this production and the ingenious transformation of their set from the season opener, "Arsenic and Old Lace," works perfectly.