OLIVER! Extends Through 12/22 at Human Race Theatre
The 2012-2013 Eichelberger Loft Season continues with Alan Souza's uniquely revisionist version of Oliver!, Lionel Bart's play of an orphan who dared to ask for more. Exchanging the full orchestra of musicians and the workhouse full of children for a gifted cast of ten performers who play multiple roles, Souza reduces the story to its relevant core in a play within a play. Christmas Eve in London, 1838. A small group of working-class, wayward souls gather in a tavern to celebrate when a small, unexpected guest prompts a spontaneous telling of the popular Oliver Twist. With traditional music-hall flair, they delve into Charles Dickens' haunting moral tale as the lines between story and reality blur. Sized perfectly for The Loft Theatre, this reimagining of the classic Tony Award®-winning musical will touch your heart and challenge your spirit. It's Oliver with a twist, indeed!
Oliver! is directed by Alan Souza (Ears on a Beatle, 2008), who developed the new concept for the show. Helen Gregory is the music director and Spencer Liff (recent Emmy® Award nominee for So You Think You Can Dance) is the choreographer. The set design is by David A. Centers, costume design by Molly Walz, lighting design by John Rensel and sound design by Brian Retterer. Kay Carver is the production stage manager. Originally slated to perform until December 16, the run has been extended to add seven performances. Oliver! runs November 29 through December 22, 2012. Opening night is Friday, November 30.
The 10-member cast includes: Nicholas Belton, Blaise Bouschard, Ian DeVine, Helen Gregory, Adam Lendermon, Joseph Medeiros, Chris Shea, Sara Sheperd, Human Race Resident Artist Scott Stoney and Gary Troy. Jonah Sorscher is the understudy.
The story of The Human Race's new production of Oliver! began when Kevin Moore wanted to do something special to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth for the 2012-2013 season. "We'd already produced A Christmas Carol for Dayton audiences five times and I felt like they deserved something new," says Moore. "Oliver! had been on my wish list for a long time, but the established cast size and scale of the musical made such a production in The Loft Theatre unlikely." But a fortuitous conversation with director Alan Souza suddenly made the improbable highly possible. Souza had recently re-imagined My Fair Lady and Camelot at the Engeman Theater at Northport, New York, turning them into smaller scale productions, and he had a similar concept for Oliver! already in mind.
Dickens' originally published Oliver Twist as a magazine serial, with installments released periodically from 1837 to 1839. "Perhaps the most telling evidence of the novel's appeal is the fact that many separate, unauthorized stage plays-based on the story-were put into production before it was ever finished!" says Souza. "Clearly the citizens of Victorian England saw themselves in the characters and situations. It was the Harry Potter of its generation." Inspired by this historical fact and the British "music hall" style of theatrical entertainment that originated in pubs and taverns around the same time, Souza hit upon a concept that would reduce Oliver! to its core and also make it more manageable for intimate theatres by taking Lionel Bart's original musical and setting it in a 1838 London pub. The result-a play within a play-as the pub's patrons act out Oliver's exploits to entertain themselves. "What if the patrons-the very type of folks the story is written about-found themselves in a predicament that directly reflected the now-famous catalyst for Oliver's adventures?" Souza wondered, "Would life imitate art, or vice-versa? Certainly they would sing about it!"
"Our rendition is set when the chronicles of Oliver Twist were all the rage, even as his fate remained a mystery." Souza then explores the impact of such a telling on those telling the story, "Our unlikely combination of revelers finds both great joy and enlightenment in enacting a pantomime of his tale as an entertainment, but in process they reveal their own struggles for survival, acceptance, and love as their identities with their characters merge."
Production sponsors for Oliver! are The Dayton Power and Light Company Foundation, Muse Machine, Anonymous, Marion's Piazza, Emerson Climate Technologies, Matthew J. Scarr, Fifth Third Bank, Houser Asphalt & Concrete, Mrs. Wallace E. Johnson, Kettering Medical College, Rand Oliver and Penny Profitt, The Richard A. and Mary T. Whitney Fund for the Arts, The Roberts Foundation and Two Friends.