Vancouver Playhouse

Oliver! Music, Lyrics and Book by Lionel Bart based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Dates and Venue 17 November - 15 December 2007 @ 20.00 | The Vancouver Playhouse

Director Michael Shamata Musical Director Lloyd Nicholson Sets John Ferguson Costumes Nancy Bryant Lighting Gerald King Sound Lucas Cooper Projection Tim Matheson Fight Director Nicholas Harrison Stage Manager Jan Hodgson

Reviewer Jane Penistan

For this spectacular musical John Ferguson has provided pictorially elegant, stylish London backdrops and interiors as well as sordid and decaying premises, for this familiar adaptation of Dickens' well-known novel. He has also given the large cast plenty of room to move. As a result, Oliver! is as delightful visually as orally.

The unseen orchestra under Lloyd Nicholson's baton keeps up a toe-tapping rhythm, when it is not wafting us away on dreams of the pleasures of love and security, or beguiling us with London street cries.

The singing here is robust and mostly joyful, never mawkish, sometimes menacing or wistful, but always beautifully, tunefully sung. The orchestra never overpowers the solo children's spine-tingling high notes.

Nancy Bryant's elaborate Victorian clothes are well researched and the actors succeed in wearing them as easily as if they were accustomed to huge sleeves, voluminous long skirts, tight fitting morning dress, and of course, the rags and ill fitting boots of the waifs of the city. None of the clothes inhibit the dancers who all perform with grace and ease.

The chorus and corps de ballet are equally well rehearsed and perform to the highest standards. Even the scene changing is intricately choreographed and immaculately carried out. All this makes for a smooth running, well paced performance.

Tom McBeath’s Fagin is not as terrifying as might be expected, though he is a crafty, wily old rascal. He has the charisma that makes him a lovable rogue. Martin Sims’ Bill Sikes is menacing, brutal, and blatantly evil. Nancy (Karin Konoval) has the pride and “come hither” charm of a “lady of the streets,” who dances, sings and acts well.

Most of the adult cast play multiple roles, gliding effortlessly and imperceptibly from ole to role. Warren Kimmnel’s deep strong baritone reverberates through his different characters.

Nine-year-old Brian Riback turns in a polished and heart rending performance as Oliver Twist. Not only has he an angelic voice, he is a consummate actor with considerable stage presence. Morgan Roff has a nice “cockney sparrow” cheekiness in his portrayal of the Artful Dodger. The boys of the chorus in the orphanage and thieves’ kitchen are very well drilled chorally and choreographically. Hearing them sing is a pleasure and the fact that they are all enjoying themselves immensely, adds a sparkle to their impeccable work.

Michael Shamata has presented Vancouver with an outstanding Christmas family entertainment. It shines brightly in all aspects. You can take your children to this show and you will enjoy it doubly, for its own intrinsic worth and for the enchanting enjoyment it will bring to your children.

© 2007 Jane Penistan