BWW Review: OLIVER! at OBC Theater in Corona is Delectable
The OBC Theater, in Corona, has a winner in its rollicking production of OLIVER. It is a bit of a schlep from the Coachella Valley, but it's worth the trip to see the imaginative choreography and adept acting, to hear the lovely singing from adults and children alike, and to marvel at the clever costumes and scenery.
OLIVER!, by Lionel Bart, for those who need a refresher, is based on Dickens' OLIVER TWIST, the story of a destitute orphan who goes from a workhouse to sale to an undertaker to membership in a band of pickpockets on his way to a better life. Although the subject matter is grim, the show itself is not; it is suitable for children of about seven years old and up.
OLIVER! has a large cast, many of them children, including some adorable kids who look to be no more than five years old. They pull off the musical numbers and dance routines with brilliance. The only reason that the talented Zachary Thompson, as Oliver, does not steal the show is that so many of the children, including the fabulous Elise Burt as the Artful Dodger, perform with equal aplomb.
The adults' singing, dancing, and acting are also top-notch. Robert Hoyt (Mr. Bumble) and the widow Corney (Ella Stickradt) are deliciously evil and comic at the same time. In the songs, "Oliver" and "I Shall Scream," they reminded me of the Thenardiers from LES MISERABLES. It's hard to think of Fagin (James Ellis) as evil as he holds court with the boys in "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" and as he argues with himself in "Reviewing the Situation" - he, too, is a comic delight. Stacy Huntington, as the tragic heroine, Nancy, shows off her terrific belting voice in "As Long as He Needs Me." The silken-voiced Jeffrey Ricca manages to give even the vicious Bill Sikes depth as he cries over his girlfriend's body. There is not a weak performer in the entire cast.
Director Amanda Kalkanis (who also plays Bet) knows how to get the most out of her performers, as do choreographer John Paul Batista, dance captain Kristen Leeper, and music director Robert Hoyt. I was surprised at the complexity of the dance routines. I was especially impressed with "Consider Yourself," and with "Food, Glorious Food," which shows the kids wistfully watching waiters marching around with a feast for Mr. Bumble and the widow Corney, while they await their gruel.
Nancy Gettinger, the scenic designer who also designed the projections and costumes (the last with Paula Bailey and Enchanted Attic), has successfully balanced a few bright colors (mostly jewel tones) with drab hues. The designs are colorful enough to be pleasing, yet somber enough to fit in with the difficult lives of most of the characters. Daniel Milligan's lighting design (he also designed the sound) is dark for most of the scenes - again a reminder about how tough life was. In contrast, in the haunting "Who Will Buy" number, the brightness stands out.
The rest of the cast consists of Katie Archbold Andrs, Lily Bergreen, Sara Botshekan, Katie Campbell, Natalie Campbell, Kimberly Chermak, Paul Christensen, Ciena Fitzgerald, Shane Fitzgerald, Simone Flowers, Kellen Ford, Audrey Gall, Camryn Gilmour, Brandon Hill, Annie Hill, Jayne Hill, Hannah Huntington, Ruby Huntington, Colette Kalkanis, Juliet Kalkanis, Matthew Kopp, Tamara Kuebler, Austin Ledger, Kristen Leeper, Taylor Levin, Phil Montuori, Caden Morgan, Indigo Parenteau, Peacelily Parenteau, Trinity Pollard, Kristen Renee, Noah Rodriguez, Dallas Sanabi, Porscha Sanabia, Riley Smith, Blake Vargas, Marissa Vargas.
The rest of the crew consists of Tyler Jenkins (Stage Manager); Erin Yaney (Assistant Stage Manager); Marlisa Yates (Technical Assistant); V. Michelle Griffiths (Makeup Design); Rebecca Nunez and Marlisa Yace (Costume and Makeup Assistant); Paul Christensen, Stage Monkey Design, James Kalkanis, and Peter Milligan (set construction).
OLIVER! will run for four more performances, at the historic Civic Center auditorium, at 815 W. 6thSt., Corona, 92882. For tickets to and upcoming shows (THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and THE GRINCH), see the Web site, www.obctheater.com.