Dickens’ classic literature is brilliantly demonstrated through Theater Latte Da’s “Oliver!” at the Pantages Theater. The show preview on Wednesday demonstrated the unique talent of the actors and an unexpected grip on the audience’s emotions.
The show started out impressively with an adorable choir of small boys, singing the classic “Food, Glorious Food”. The talent started there and never seemed to end. Oliver himself, played by Nate Turcotte, portrayed the innocent yet spunky orphan well. The audience formed an immediate connection with him and the rest of the cast. A standout character was definitely Nancy, played by Lauren Davis. Her vocal chords out shined the rest of the cast by far and her passion and energy created an unforgettable performance.
Connecting with the audience was something this cast particularly excelled at. The choreography by Michael Matthew Farrell was lively and inviting, almost as if the audience could jump on stage and join the actors. It definitely encaptured the “Steampunk” vibe of the show. A crowd favorite was Fagin (Bradley Greenwald), who wowed with magic tricks and provided surefire comedic relief that lightened the heavier aspects of the production. The communication the cast shared with those watching enhanced the experience and turned a story traditionally rather dark into a heartfelt tale.
Though the show started out well, it grew rather stale towards the end of the first Act. There was a significantly larger amount of singing than actual speaking. This makes sense considering the show is a musical, but it took away from the development of the plot. For one unfamiliar with the story of Oliver Twist it may be rather confusing trying to understand the storyline at first. However, as Act two went on the story became more clear and emotional. The drama was portrayed perfectly, especially by Turcotte and Davis, and by the climax of the play the audience was at the edge of their seats, lost in the gripping performance.
It would be unjust not to mention the gorgeous costume and set design. Costume designer Christine A. Richardson created a wardrobe of rich hues and shiny metallics to dress the lower, more grungy characters in, which contrasted greatly with the stiff whites and blacks of the portrayed upper class. The warmth and brightness of the costumes of characters like Fagin’s Boys created a fun and carefree vibe whenever they were on stage. The effect of all those colors when they were dancing was marvelous. Rick Polenek, who designed the set, also deserves recognition for the brilliant setting he created. The stage shifts many times from a cold, depressing orphanage to a warm, snug cellar all the way to a mysterious and shady bridge. Each setting has a completely different atmosphere to each and melded perfectly with each scene. When a set is designed well, it doesn’t necessarily stand out but fits it’s purpose beautifully, just as Polenek’s did.
Overall, “Oliver!” is an entertaining and heartwarming musical that will keep an audience laughing, crying, and jumping to their feet cheering. The talented cast and catchy music will leave you asking, despite your best efforts, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”