Orphans and musical theater are the ultimate duo. From Annie to Newsies, there is no doubt that the classic story of an orphan rising to the occasion has brought audiences to tears wondering, “Where is love?” Theater Latté Da’s invigorating performance of Oliver! takes the stage with its fresh new steam-punk twist to the classic tale of a lonely boy who gets caught up in a crowd picking-a-pocket or two.
From the moment the curtain goes up, the rustic shimmer of the set dazzles the stage. Designed by Rick Polenek, the intricate set design resembles that of an old Victorian workhouse and provides a complex backdrop that easily transitions into different scenery. The immense amount of detail and thought that went into the creation of the set perfectly places audience members back in time and sets up the rugged ambience of the storyline. Hidden nooks and crannies also offer new and interesting ways for characters to immerge from the story.
In my experience, the authenticity of the performance lies in the hands of the actors. There were many strong actors in this performance, notably Lauren Davis in her rendition of “As Long as He Needs Me.” Even from the back of the audience, you could feel the sheer heart she put into her performance along with her lovely voice and unconditional soul. In another light, the rugged soul of Fagin was captivating. Bradley Greenwald is hilariously cynical. His characterization and portrayal of the character Fagin is brilliant, primitive, and downright priceless. One of his boys, Alejandro Vega, stood out with one of the most impressive stage presences. Having many special moments in the show, I found my eyes always drifting towards Vega whenever the boys broke out into dance as he would always be putting in 110% of his energy into everything he was doing.
There were a couple times when the energy in the room would plummet, especially when the stage fighting started. It was sloppily done, often with long pauses in between the slap and when the actor fell. The awkward delays and uncomfortable timing often led to a decrease in energy within the room as you were left guessing whether the scene was meant to be serious or comedic. With a little more practice and dedication the actors will be on their way to a more realistic portrayal.
The overall ability for the children to carry most of the show was amazing. It shows the level of professionalism and dedication that Theater Latté Da puts into their actors and performance. Theater Latté Da has done it again: Consider yourself sold on Oliver!