Many variations have sprung from classic stories, both from a comedic angle as well as as a more, shall we say artistic side of life (the latter not always a winner). However, when a jewel such as Oliver is presented to us in its truest form with a large side helping of flawlessness, and its ever recognized and loved musical numbers, then we have a wonderful marriage of ability and paramount standard that combines the grace in which the classic story was intended to portray. It caters to our nostalgic memories and ignites the entertainment all over again (not to mention the audience singing along with them). The actors gave life to these amazing characters with their own unique acting flair, composing facial expressions and virtual heartfelt feelings for their counterparts with heart, mind, and soul most definitely intermingled within their world. The ever quite mobile stage setting, highly versatile as it was, maneuvered about very well to accommodate its transitory setting. The Artful Dodger brilliantly played by Andrew Barrett, grants us the need to see him in his truest form as the lying, cheating, thieving, wretch that he is with a handful of street class and a heart of gold. Fagin, masterfully portrayed by Dominick Varney, not only gave us exactly what we expected to see in this low life faceless criminal lurking in the shadows, but a mastermind of the miscreant underworld, yet as a thief in real life stealing the show with his prancing, daunting eyes, and glaring teeth perfectly. Ben Layman as Mr. Bumble, is not only a wonderfully versatile actor, but has the uncanny ability to make you believe he is a different person no matter how many charterers he dons the stage with. And his jolly articulation along with his own facial variations are priceless. Brianne Beck’s dazzling vocals and poignant sincerity spilled all over the stage and onto the spectators as her character, Nancy, whose heart was drawn to the miserable Bill Sykes (frighteningly played by the extremely believable Neil E. Graham) without seeing the goodness in her own heart drowning in her own self worthlessness had become embroiled in a life of corruption. The vocals were launched into the stratosphere with triumphant success and everyone’s heart was most definitely flourishing onstage. A legendary story brought to life once again by the Penobscot Theatre Company. Did you say you wanted some more? Come and get it!
Written by John D’Alessandro
Photos by Susan D’Alessandro