Theatre Latte Da’s adaptation of Oliver! hit the Pantages Theatre with a wonderful performance on Wednesday night. True to Latte Da’s Broadway Re-imagined theme, this production featured a steampunk twist that made the show spectacular.
It’s not unusual for a show to have amazing costumes, but in my experience I’ve rarely seen a show where the costumes outshone the singing and dancing. The steampunk outfits in Oliver! stole the show. Designed by Christine A. Richardson, each costume was wacky yet fitting to the characters and served to emphasize the story: for example, the contrast between the dull rags of the orphan factory boys and the brightly colored garb of the pick-pocketing street boys. The addition of gears, small circular spectacles, chains and ruffles, each constructed to the finest detail, made every moment of the show unbelievably cool.
In addition to the spectacular costumes was the choreography. The audience had the pleasure of seeing the costumes dance, and the resulting visual made every moment one you wouldn’t want to miss. From groups of jolly street children to joyous pub goers, each number was perfectly executed. Choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell brought the audience back to old time London as portrayed in classic Broadway, and it was a hit.
The costume-choreography combination was so full of blink-and-you-miss-it detail that no audience member wanted to look away even for a moment. The steampunk visual gave the show a great fresh look.
However, while Oliver! looked fantastic, the show was somewhat lacking in its sound. For a show that begins in a violent thunderstorm, the orchestra was quite disappointing. From there the sound continued to be underwhelming, everything from the tempo to the orchestra to the volume. Oliver! is a musical after all, so such a flaw could have been devastating. The overall show was saved by the visual, but only barely. That’s not to say there was bad singing — although James Ramlet could have cooled it on the vibrato — but the sound of the show fell under the high bar set by the fantastic look of it.
As for the actors, they each portrayed the story beautifully and wholeheartedly. The children from as young as fourth grade were impressive in their ability to carry nearly the entire show on their lively dancing shoulders without getting tired. True, they could have used more practice to get the moves on the next level of perfect synchronization, but what they lacked there they made up for in passion. They brought a delightful energy to the stage to make each number pop. Some standout adults were Lauren Davis as Nancy, Dieter Bierbrauer as Bill Sykes, and especially Bradley Greenwald as Fagin, who performed an entire number while doing sleight of hand magic. He did a fine job of showing the dimensions of his character, first the loveable if laughable old man, then the frighteningly self-interested thief.
By the end of it, Oliver! left the audience with a feeling of an evening well spent. Despite the underwhelming sound of the musical, it was a great show with something interesting and fun to look at for every moment of every scene.