BWW Review: OLIVER! at Gretna Theatre
In 1837, Charles Dickens began releasing a serial known as Oliver Twist. Over 100 years later, Lionel Bart would write a musical about this famous London orphan. The highlight of Gretna Theatre's 2019 summer season, Oliver! is a classic musical sure to delight theatre-goers of all ages. Though some of the topics explored in this production are incredibly dark, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Peter Reynolds and his company did a lovely job bringing this story to life in a vibrant way.
Laura Revelt's scenic design was stunning. The rustic backdrop of old London provided a perfect playground for the performers.
All of the performers were spot on with their portrayals of their respective characters. I especially loved Don Richard's version of Fagin. The energy that he brought to the character was infectious. Jake Blouch was terrifying as Bill Sykes. Despite the extremely warm weather, all of the performers were spot on with Maggie Anderson's beautiful dance choreography. I was not quite as impressed, however, with Dan Burke's fight choreography. While certain violent moments between certain characters were spot on, some weren't and the larger fight sequences looked somewhat slow and sloppy. The costumes (designed by Elizabeth Ennis) were vivid and eye-catching.
There were two things during and after curtain call that were troubling to me. While the performers acknowledged the orchestra and crew backstage, they did not acknowledge the sound and lighting operators. In any production, it is the job of the performers to make sure the audience notices and takes a moment to appreciate all of the people who make these productions a success, not just some of them. After curtain call, one of the performers stayed onstage to ask for financial support. While it is crucial that theatres have financial support from the community in order to offer the opportunities that they do, right before and right after a show are really not the best time to do this. It completely ruins the ambience of the performance itself. This type of advertising is what the programs, the theatre website, and the wall space around the theatre are for. Even having performers with baskets at the exits is fine and doesn't feel pushy in the way that an awkward announcement does. Plus, at the end of the show, the poor performer doing this had to yell over all of the talking while most people just started walking out without paying attention. There was a lot of muttering of audience members around us about this, so it is something that I feel like all theatres should really keep in mind.
Overall, I would totally recommend this show to anyone who loves good musical theatre. This show has a super quick run and last night's show was a full house, so don't wait to get tickets if you want to see it before it closes on July 21st. Visit www.gretnatheatre.org for more information. Consider yourself one of the family for a lovely evening of theatre under the lush trees of Mount Gretna and let Oliver's story enchant you...