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Little Theatre of Alexandria Oliver!

By • Jan 19th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Oliver!
Little Theatre of Alexandria
Little Theatre of Alexandria, Alexandria, VA
Through February 5th
$19-$22
2:30 with one intermission
Reviewed January 15th, 2011

Charles Dickens probably never imagined that his brutal portrayal of the social mistreatment of orphans in the early 1800s would become an Oscar-winning musical film and an often produced piece of family community theater. Oliver! tells the story of young Oliver Twist from workhouse to undertaker’s mute to street urchin to the final realization of his quest for love. With a large cast of both children and adults, it is an excellent piece to bring families together and introduce young people to theatre.

A lot of attention to detail obviously went into the set, costumes, and lighting for this production. The back of the set was a gorgeous silhouette of the London skyline. Various pieces that were either turned or moved in and out were reconfigured to provide detailed locations that captured the mood of each scene. The lighting worked well to compliment the sets using a variety of different colors and specials. The costumes looked appropriately period and were a myriad of bright colors.

The best thing in the production was the flawless performance of Mike Baker Jr. as Fagin. His rendition of “Reviewing the Situation” was the excellent combination of humor, heart, and gorgeous vocals. Two other impeccable performances came from Ron Bianchi and Nicky McDonnell as Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry. An extremely strong performance was delivered by Maureen Rohn as Nancy. She did an extraordinary job with capturing both Nancy’s grit and her sensitivity. The only disappointment was that, while the vocals were stellar, she lost a lot of Nancy in her “As Long As He Needs.” Both her cockney accent and her grit completely disappeared as she was singing the ballad.

James Woods (Oliver) and Ben Cherington (Dodger) were both adorable and showed real potential during their upbeat song and dance numbers. They lacked nuance in some of the more emotional material, but they are working in the right direction. Emma Canfield (Bet) had a nice voice but lacked some of the vigor and energy that was characteristic of the rest of the cast.

Some of the other principals were not as strong. Paul Caffrey has a very nice voice and presence; unfortunately, he just doesn’t seem to have an evil bone in his body and was probably miscast as the despicable Bill Sykes. Both Jeffrey Clarke (Mr. Bumble) and Mary Ayala-Bush (Widow Corney) were unfortunately very outmatched by the difficult vocals written for those roles, and they rushed through their comedic scenes together.

The ensemble had tons of energy, and there were lots of great voices showcased throughout. The choreographed was simple and clean, and the cast really sold it with their enthusiasm.

There were only two hugely distracting issues with the production. The first was the dialect. Although the program credits an accent coach, it was not evident in the production. Some characters used no accent; some used inaccurate accents; some (like Nancy) lost their accent at times in song; and others just went in and out of accent through the dialogue. A few of the leads did indeed nail consistent accents, but they were the exception. The second was the stage combat. Again, there is a credited choreographer for stage combat, but it all looked extremely fake.

Those missteps aside, it was heartwarming to watch this production, because the cast and audience, both young and old, were clearly having a great time and discovering the love of theatre.

Photo Gallery

Ben Cherington (Artful Dodger) and James Woods (Oliver) Paul Caffrey (Bill Sikes)
Ben Cherington (Artful Dodger) and James Woods (Oliver)
Paul Caffrey (Bill Sikes)
Mike Baker Jr. (Fagin)
Mike Baker Jr. (Fagin)

Photos by Shane Canfield

The Cast

  • Workhouse Matrons: Emma Baskir and Kendall Snow
  • Oliver Twist: James Woods
  • Workhouse Orphans: Michael Berkowitz, Scotty Deffinbaugh, Emma Elkman, Evie Galvan, Jacob Hyde, Joe McDonnell, Joseph Machosky, Miryam Mendelson, Hayden Quale, Ellen Roberts, Hannah Schlesinger
  • Mr. Bumble: Jeffrey Clarke
  • Widow Corney: Mary Ayala-Bush
  • Mr. Sowerberry: Ron Bianchi
  • Mrs. Sowerberry: Nicky McDonnell
  • Charlotte Sowerberry: Maria Berkowitz
  • Noah Claypole: Casey Brusnahan
  • Artful Dodger: Ben Cherington
  • Fagin’s Gang: Emma Baskir, Michael Berkowitz, Scotty Deffinbaugh, Emma Elkman, Evie Galvan, Jacob Hyde, Joe McDonnell, Joseph Machosky, Miryam Mendelson, Hayden Quale, Ellen Roberts, Hannah Schlesinger
  • London Street and Tavern Ensemble: Mary Ayala-Bush, Emma Baskir, Maria Berkowitz, Ron Bianchi, Casey Brusnahan, Emma Canfield, Maria Ciarrocchi, Jeffrey Clarke, Brandon DeGroat, Reeny Eul, Josh Goldman, Jerry Hoffman, Bonnie Jourdan, Anne Monahan, Will Monahan, Michael Schlesinger, Kendall Snow
  • Fagin: Michael Baker, Jr.
  • Charley Bates: Michael Berkowitz
  • Nancy: Maureen Rohn
  • Bet: Emma Canfield
  • Bill Sykes: Paul Caffrey
  • Mrs. Bedwin: Kendall Snow
  • Old Sally/First Woman: Bonnie Jourdan
  • Rose Seller: Maria Ciarrocchi
  • Milkmaid: Nicky McDonnell
  • Strawberry Seller: Reeny Eul
  • Knife Seller: Josh Goldman
  • Long Song Seller: Ron Bianchi
  • Mr. Brownlow: Will Monahan
  • Dr. Grimwig: Jerry Hoffman
  • Boy: Miryam Mendelson
  • Old Lady/Second Woman: Anne Monahan

The Crew

  • Producers: Rachel Alberts, Robert Kraus, and Eddie Page
  • Assistant Producer: Bobbie Herbst
  • Director: Roland Branford Gomez
  • Assistant Director: Mary Ayala-Bush
  • Musical Director: Mark V. Deal
  • Choreographer: Heide Zufall
  • Assistant Choreographer: Emma Baskin
  • Stage Managers: Carlyn Lightfoot and Margaret Soroos
  • Assistant Stage Managers: Charles Dragonette and Jim Hutzler
  • Stage Combat Choreography: Steve Lada
  • Property Design: Rebecca Johnson and Leslie Reed (Assisted by: Maya Brettell, Betty Dolan, Kacie Greenwood-Ekman, Patty Greksouk, Barbara Helsing, Carol Hutchinson, Susie Poole, Jayn Rife, Nicole Zuchetto)
  • Set Decoration: Nancyanne Burton, Jean and Allen Stuhl
  • Set Design: Erin Cumbo and John Downing
  • Set Construction: John Downing and Pete Sudkamp (Assisted by: George Albert, Geoff Baskir, Scott Deffinbaugh, Marcelino Galvin, Jim Hutzler, Michael Page, Dan Remmers)
  • Set Painting: Erin Cumbo (Assisted by: Anita Boles, Danielle Canfield, Jim Hutzler, Mary Hutzler, Oliver Parents)
  • Lighting Design: Ken and Patti Crowley
  • Master Electrician: Eileen Doherty (Assisted by: Geoff Baskir, Jim Hartz, Elizabeth Herbst, Pam Leonowich, Michael O’Connor, Doug Olmsted, Nancy Owens, Donna Reynolds, Dick Schwab)
  • Sound Design: David Correia (Assisted by: Keith Bell, Dylan Connor, Anna Hawkins, David Rampy)
  • Costume Design: Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley
  • Wardrobe: Robin Parker and Annie Vroom (Assisted by: Jamie Blake, Patty Greksouk, Kim Galvan, Jane Hyde, Pat Lobenstein, Margaret Snow, Nicole Zuchetto)
  • Makeup and Hair: Chris Macey
  • Accent Coach: Carol Strachan
  • Rigging: Russell Wyland
  • Photographer: Shane Canfield
  • Auditions: Maya Brettel, Shane Canfield, Emily Carbone, David Correia, Elizabeth Herbst, Margaret Snow, Annie Vroom, Nicole Zuchetto
  • Audition Accompanist: Walter McCoy and Lori Roddy
  • Rehearsal Pianist: Addie Edelson, Matt Jeffrey, Walter McCoy, Lori Roddy
  • Double-Tech Dinner: Virginia Lacey and Frank Shutts
  • Opening Night Party: Russell Wyland (Assisted by: George Alberts, Genie Baskir, Geoff Baskir, Lloyd Bittinger, Marian Holmes

Disclaimer: Little Theatre of Alexandria provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.

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