BWW Review: LIONEL BART'S OLIVER at Smithtown Center For The Performing Arts
Long Island's finest actors have gathered together this holiday season to bring Lionel Bart's "Oliver" to the Smithtown Center For The Performing Arts. The outstanding Anne Marie Finnie, terrific Chazmond Peacock, charming Zak Ketcham, and a slew of multitalented kids and pros took us to London for the rags to riches classic tale of Oliver Twist.
Oliver, the young orphan who caused mass pandemonium for wanting a tad more gruel to eat in order to survive, was brilliantly performed on opening night by youngster Austin Levine. We followed him from his orphanage stay, to living in a funeral parlor, to life on the streets, to Fagin's filthy den, to jail for pickpocketing, and finally to a life with loving and nurturing folk. Along his journey we met a plethora of shady characters looking and asking for trouble.
The orphanage's Mr. Bumble, played by a magnificent Doug Vandewinckel, is certainly not the loving and caring type yet Ms. Finnie, as his coworker Mrs. Corney, certainly lightened the mood and kept him on his toes. Her cockney accent was perfect and she always serves as the comic relief in every show she's in. In fact, Ms. Finnie is truly one of Long Island's funniest and best leading actresses. Mr. Sowerberry, played on opening night by Chazmond Peacock, runs a funeral parlor and purchased Oliver from Mr. Bumble. His intensions seemed quite inappropriate and Mr. Peacock brought that character to life just as winningly as he brought Coalhouse Walker to life in a recent production of "Ragtime."
The show truly came alive as we met Andrew Timmins as the Artful Dodger. As he expertly performed the ever famous "Consider Yourself," he motivated the ensemble to soar high and shine brightly with an energetic song and dance number. After all these creepy creatures tried to sway Oliver the wrong way, we met the lowest of lows Fagin who taught Oliver and a number of adorable kiddies to pick pockets. Fagin was shrewdly played by the great Nick Masson and led the children to both mischief and musical victory.
Finally, in a musical play heavily filled with boys, men, and testosterone, two wonderful women made their entrances late in the musical and lightened the dark atmosphere. Nancy and Bet warmed our hearts up after all the treachery we had witnessed. Bet, played by Taylor Duff, was very sweet and Nancy, played on opening night by Ashley Nicastro, was simply marvelous. Her strong singing voice, intense determination, and powerhouse performance electrified all of London and Smithtown.
Kudos to the entire cast both young and old especially the exceptional Mr. Ketcham as Charley Bates. Having recently seen him perform at Smithtown's fifteenth anniversary, one can certainly understand his dedication to the theater and the passion he has for performing on a stage.
Being huge fans of "Annie," "Matilda," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and all the shows where ragamuffins get the happy ending they deserve, it was wonderful to see Oliver alive and well in Smithtown. As new yet familiar actors head into this enchanting production throughout the holiday season, we plan, as Fagin instructed, to be back soon!
For more information or for tickets please visit: www.smithtownpac.org or call the box office at: 631-724-3700. Tickets on sale now-January 21, 2018
Book, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart, Director Jordan Hue, Choreographer Jessica Gill, Musical Director Melissa Coyle, Lighting Design Chris Creevy, Set Design Timothy Golebiewski, Costume Design Ronald R. Green III, Sound Design Brianne Boyd, Set Construction Russ Bakunus, and Stage Manager Jessica Donlon
Starring: Austin Levine as Oliver Twist, Andrew Timmins as The Artful Dodger, Jess Adler/Ashley Nicastro as Nancy, Nick Masson as Fagin, Doug Vandewinckel as Mr. Bumble, Anne Marie Finnie as Mrs. Corney, Brian Gill/Sandro Scegna as Bill Sikes, Chazmond Peacock as Mr. Sowerberry/Dr. Grimwig, Megan Cain as Mrs. Sowerberry, Niki Kuttler as Charlotte Sowerberry, Erich Grathwohl as Mr. Brownlow, Logan O'Leary as Noah Claypole, Taylor Duff as Bet, Zak Ketcham as Charley Bates, Laura Morselli as Mrs. Bedwin, Linda Pentz as Old Sally, Trevor Cox, Jenna Hammelman, Samantha Hmelovsky, Zak Ketcham, Brooke Miranda, Cole Napolitano, Logan O'Leary, Dylan O'Leary, Michael Puglisi, Connor Schad, Kaitlyn Schieble, Julie Stewart, Emily Warner and Julie Weisenberger as Workhouse Boys and Fagin's Gang, Colleen Curry, Erich Grathwohl, Niki Kuttler, Brooke Miranda, Laura Morselli, Linda Pentz, Kaitlyn Schieble, Julie Stewart, Emily Warner, Julie Weisenberger as Londoners.
Understudies include: Cole Napolitano for Oliver Twist, Logan O'Leary for The Artful Dodger, Andrew Murano for Fagin and Mr. Sowerberry and Brooke Miranda for Charlotte Sowerberry. Swings: Kayla Murray, Evan Roth and Nikki Sponaugle