Kids Steal Show in Civic Lights' Oliver!

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W.C. Fields once said, "never work with animals or children," and often actors still dread sharing the stage or screen with a group of precocious youngsters, fearing their performance might be weakened.  Quite the opposite can be said of the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities' holiday offering of Oliver!, the Musical running through December 17th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.

With an impressive cast of 28 children, it is the younger talent that proves to be the heartbeat of this Lionel Bart adaptation of Charles Dicken's novel "Oliver Twist," which during it's initial run on Broadway in 1963 garnered a handful of Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Although Jon Engstrom's direction and choreography do not reach the heights of the show's initial incarnation, he proves masterful in his handling of local child actors, all of whom hit their marks and nail every note throughout the evening stealing the show.

During the opening number "Food, Glorious Food," a wave of children spring around the stage, each finding a moment to shine through the crowd, with much attention going to Brendan Brady, who consistently warms the hearts of the audience with his darling contribution to the ensemble.  Much can be said of all the orphans and urchins in Oliver!, including Oliver himself, played by 11-year-old Quintan Craig (CLOSBC's Music Man and Will Rogers' Follies), whose smile lights up the evening, which at times does not compliment the overall tone of the material at hand, ranging from sentimental to downright depressing.  

Ovation Award winner Stephen Breithaupt (It Came From Beyond in Hollywood) takes on the role of Fagin, the pickpocket vagabond who takes in orphans to help further his petty crime ring.  Breithaupt finds a pleasant balance in Fagin,  teetering on sensitive and caring whilst continually putting The Children in harms way.  A fellow Ovation Award winner Misty Cotton (The Last Five Years and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opposite Donny Osmond), is the tortured Nancy, and in the hands of Cotton, rouses an overwhelming sense of loss in her final moments.

With musical direction by Steven Smith, lighting design by Darrell Clark, costumes by Ambra Wakefield and sound design by John Feinstein, Oliver! proves a scrumptous holiday treat for the whole family, and will surely keep you humming some of those memorable tunes like "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" and "As Long As He Needs Me."

Tickets can be purchased at www.civiclightsopera.com or by phone at 310-372-4477.  The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 1935 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Redondo Beach, CA.




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From This Author James Sims

James Sims is the Senior Editor at BroadwayWorld.com. Beyond his duties on this website, James also contributes as a featured blogger for the Huffington Post. (read more...)