“Oliver!” opened with a marvelous performance the evening of Friday, Dec. 2. Much of this was thanks to incredible chemistry and talent between the cast and orchestra, creating an engaging and entertaining performance.
With a jaw-dropping multi-turning stage, complete with a two-story-high set, Pioneer Theatre portrayed various aspects of 1850s London, mesmerizing the audience with seemingly endless facets of their stage repertoire.
The character of Oliver Twist in particular, played by the young Maxwell Rimington, sustained the caliber and talent of his fellow adult actors and added an innocent dimension to the show. His 12 fellow child cast-mates did the same. Executing multiple dances and songs, the child cast was a delightful aspect of this production. They were credible, enthusiastic and phenomenally talented. Opening the night with “Food, Glorious Food,” this gang of orphans and talented actors started the production off on an upbeat and talented note.
Leading the group of orphans throughout the play were Mr. Bumble, played by adult actors Kevin Ligon and Fagin, played by Bill Nolte. Ligon and Nolte captured their selfishly spiteful, yet somewhat compassionate characters well.
Ligon had believable and comedic chemistry with Linda Griffin, playing Mrs. Corney, and maintained a convincing dominion within his scenes with the orphans, performing especially well within the number “Boy for Sale.”
Nolte, on the other hand, was superb with pieces “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” and “Reviewing the Situation.”
The comedic yet mournful undertakers, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry, who begrudgingly take Oliver in for a short period of time are played by James Michael Reilly and Carol Schuberg respectively. Reilly and Schuberg, though they have limited stage time, are memorable and possibly the best duo of the night. “That’s Your Funeral” remained a highlight within the production.
Natalie Hill donned the persona of Nancy, a desperate yet tenacious street worker caught in an abusive relationship and even more destitute life circumstances. Hill was indubitably the star of the show. Her onstage presence was lively and energetic and her voice soared within each number; “As Long as He Needs Me,” a musical soliloquy by Nancy, was Hill’s finest point. Containing powerful vocals and credible emotion, Hill captured the essence of Nancy beautifully.
Coming in a close second behind Hill was the likable and stage-commanding Christian Labertew, playing the scrappy Artful Dodger. Labertew completely inhibited his character’s perseverance and comedic personality. Excelling in “I’d Do Anything” and “Consider Yourself,” Labertew was a consistent favorite throughout the entire musical.
Special mention must be made to Tom Griffin, music director and conductor, and the accompanying live 12-piece orchestra. With incredible unity and outstanding talent, the orchestra supports and adds on to the talent of the actors and songs within the performance. Enough cannot be said of their finesse and on-point timing.
“Oliver!” is a wonderful production for this holiday season.
The show runs Dec. 2- 17 at Pioneer Theater Company. Students may obtain discounted rush tickets for $5 an hour before each performance, or half-off tickets for reservations made in advance. Showtimes and additional ticket information can be found on the pioneer theater website: www.pioneertheatrecompany.org.