Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: MTW's OLIVER! Exudes Thrill and Joy

Review: MTW's OLIVER! Exudes Thrill and Joy

Oliver!/book. lyrics and music by Lionel Bart/ based on Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist/directed by James A. Rocco/choreographed by Hector Guerrero/musical director: Ryan O'Connell/MTW (Musical Theatre West)/The Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach/through February 24

Oliver! is a devilishly fine musical by Lionel Bart who wrote the book, music and lyrics without collaboration. It's an uplifting story of an abused orphan who learns how to survive in 19th century London with the help of acquaintances from both sides of the track. Currently onstage via MTW at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach, the musical boasts a superb cast headed by Davis Gaines as Fagin and 15 delightful and talented child actors.

If you have forgotten the plot, Oliver (Travis Burnett) speaks out at the highly disciplined orphanage where he has been placed and asserts himself as a totally independent, free-thinking boy. ("Food Glorious Food" followed by "Please sir, I want some more".) He is quickly dismissed and sent to work for an undertaker where he also gets into a peck of trouble. From there he meets up with the Artful Dodger (Jason Brewer) who leads him to a merry band of thieves headed by Fagin (Gaines) a conniving, despicable villain. ("You've Got To Pick a Pocket or Two") Nancy (Cayman Ilika) is the likable ladyfriend to crook Bill Sikes ( Kenny Landmon), who ends up kidnapping Oliver and almost killing him. Motherly Nancy tries to save Oliver, but is victimized by Sikes, who turns on her. ("As Long As He Needs Me") As for Oliver, will he find a happy ending? Come see the musical and find out for yourselves!

Review: MTW's OLIVER! Exudes Thrill and Joy

Guided skillfully by director James A. Rocco and choreographer Hector Guerrero, the ensemble are fantastic. It is difficult to find kids who can sing, dance and act, and that is most likely the reason this show is not mounted that frequently. MTW has found 15 triple threats led by Burnett as a wonderfully sensitive Oliver. Brewer is the tough Dodger, but could go even further with his nasty behavior. Gaines as Fagin is wonderfully disgusting, adding much humor to the role. This actor really knows how to shift his vocal instrument to bring the character to life. Ilika is a beautiful Nancy with a tremendous voice and is consistently a tower of strength. Landmon as Sikes is a terribly scary scoundrel. Character work is so important in this story and all of the actors bring so much to their roles, many of them playing multiple parts. William Hartery is a deliciously evil Mr Bumble and Cathy Newman a hilariously indulgent Widow Corney. Cynthia Ferrer and Kevin McMahon are grim and sassy as the Sowerberrys. Ferrer also stands out as the loving nurse Mrs. Bedwin. Nikki Elena Spies, Christine Negherbon and Bill Ledesma are vocally outstanding as the singing vendors and Doug Carfrae is tremendously caring as Mr. Brownlow who plays into Oliver's life far more than we expected. Guerrero creates wonderfully snappy choreography especially for the kids and Ryan O'Connell does superior work as musical director.

Sets by Dennis Hassan are functional on two levels and costumes by Tamara Becker are period fine. Loved Fagin's first outer coat in a blue print. Lighting by Paul Black and sound by Audio Production Geeks, LLC are right on target.

Review: MTW's OLIVER! Exudes Thrill and Joy

Don't miss this stellar production of Oliver! For a show that is based on a dark Dickens' classic, there is a lot of humor sprinkled throughout, so you will have a great time! Congrats to MTW once more!

(photo credit: Caught in the Moment Photography)

Review: MTW's OLIVER! Exudes Thrill and Joy

From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                             ... (read more about this author)

BWW Interview: Pop Singer Tiffany Bailey Talks About Her Projects for 2020
January 28, 2020

Actress/singer Tiffany Bailey has many talents. She also happens to be a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I laud her for that. Last spring 2019 she released an album entitled Jazz with Pop and her cabaret show was very well received. In this interview she updates our readers as to the success of the CD and talks about her other projects for 2020.

BWW Review: Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson a Smash at the Wallis Annenberg
January 27, 2020

One of the most highly anticipated concerts of the season took place Saturday January 25 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater of the Wallis Annenberg in Beverly Hills. It co-starred Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson. To say the least both performers were at the very top of their form and blew the roof off the Annenberg by just being their professional selves, singing sublimely separately and together and sharing stories about their career and personal lives.

BWW Interview: Alfred Molina Speaks About THE FATHER at Pasadena Playhouse
January 24, 2020

Florian Zeller's play The Father is so topical, for it deals with a father who is suffering from dimentia. It opens for previews on February 5 at the Pasadena Playhouse with the official opening night set for Tuesday February 11. Alfred Molina whose stage and film appearances are laudatory stars as the father Andre, a former tap dancer. He talks succinctly about the role as he settles in to a comfortable rehearsal period.

Candlelight Pavilion Presents a Sterling MAN OF LA MANCHA
January 22, 2020

Man of La Mancha /book by Dale Wasserman/music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion/ directed by Chuck Ketter/choreographed by Daniel Solis/ music direction by Douglas Austin/Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre/through February 22 This has to be my hundreth viewing of this show. As many times as I see Man of La Mancha, I relish the music and high dramatic moments of this classic piece of theatre. Such is the case when the production is top notch, with the perfect actors and highly skilled direction. Candlelight Pavilion's current revival is fantastic with artistic director John LaLonde stepping into the role of Cervantes for the sixth time. In spite of the entire cast's excellent performances, he is the main reason to see this fine production.

BWW Review: Suzy London Presents a Playful TATTOOS ON MY HEART
January 21, 2020

Actress Suzy London is a dynamite performer onstage. She really digs in deep to become the character she is playing. Her cabaret appearance - her second over the past year - on Sunday January 19 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal proved that she can conquer the cabaret scene with equal finesse. It takes a performer of versatility to grab hold of an audience and keep them riveted to you... as yourself. Here in cabaret, you are exposing a side of yourself that is covered over in a specific character role.