Trinity Rep's "Oliver!" Is A Solid Winner
It certainly is. With a book, and music and lyrics, by the era’s one-time
wunderkind, Lionel Bart, “Oliver!” received 23 curtain calls opening night and
sailed on for six years in London’s West End. Then it became a Broadway hit and
there was a very successful film, too.
Later on, producer Cameron Macintosh took over and ran successful revivals.
Many theater fans loved “Oliver!” for its gutsy, and plucky, drive. It’s wistful
happy ending helped, too.
But still for a regional theater to take on such a huge piece is a great challenge.
Lots of performers, many of them kids, are necessary. They’ve all got to be able to
sing a major score on a professional level And, there’s a whole lot of dancing, too.
At Trinity, artistic director Curt Columbus solved these roadblocks with a husband
and wife team, Richard and Sharon Jenkins. The result is a solid winner. “Oliver! Is
charming and real. If it’s not Broadway slick, it is truthful, reaching to the essence
of Dickens and also being great fun.
If you go to “Oliver!,” and you should, you will see a regional theater stretching
itself, delivering a winner, doing a work that a lot of top regionals wouldn’t think
of taking on.
Once a leading actor and then artistic director at Trinity, Dick Jenkins is now a film
and television star. He recently told the Providence Journal that he was afraid
he’d even forgotten the meaning of “stage right” and “stage left” in the theater.
But he surely hasn’t forgotten how to tell a story on stage. This “Oliver!” is clear
and quick. It breaks down each scene into microcosms of information all on
Eugene Lee’s useful set, resurrected from this year’s “A Christmas Carol.”
Sharon Jenkins choreography is, as the Brits like to say, “brilliant.” Vibrant and
winsome at the same time, it’s a joy to watch, never forced and always fresh.
Perhaps the great surprise is that the “orchestra” consists of just five players. But
led with crisp drive by Michael Rice it works very well.
As for the cast, Trinity has come up with two boys who are just super. Phineas
Peters of Providence turns Oliver into a delightful lad, one who never gives up,
never stops striving. Dickens originally wanted his boy to be a representative of
what could be, of a better world. Young Peters catches that and more.
The other boy, the Artful Dodger of pick-your-pocket fame in Dickens, is done
with finesse and wicked good dancing by Massachusetts-born Noah Parets, a
young man who already works in New York and has been on a national tour as
Back from appearing on the West Coast, Trinity’s Rachael Warren is vibrant as the
ill-fated heroine of “Oliver!” When she sings one of the show’s best songs, “As
Long as He Needs Me” she brings chills to your spine. Others, Stephen Berenson
as Fagin, Tom Gleadow as Mr. Bumble, Anne Scurria in two roles and Timothy
John Smith as the malevolent Bill Sikes, are all great contributors.
Downstairs, Trinity is presenting the forceful drama “Intimate Apparel.” Upstairs
It's “Oliver!” We are lucky to have a theater so capable of doing so much.
Want to Go?
“Oliver!” continues at Trinity Rep through March 30th.