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November 14, 2007 > Classic tale sings strong

Classic tale sings strong

By Julie Grabowski

The harsh, dirty world of 1850s London rises on the stage of Douglas Morrisson Theatre in the musical retelling of Charles Dickens's classic novel Oliver Twist. The orphaned boy's trials and travails first appeared on Broadway in 1963 set to Lionel Bart's Tony Award winning composition and lyrics, going on to two more Broadway runs as well as a film version. This is Oliver!'s second go round at DMT, headed up once again by director Sue Ellen Nelsen who was at the helm for the first production in 1996. With a cast of 42 players, a 15-piece orchestra, and marvelous set by Kim A. Tolman it is an ambitious show that doesn't fail to please.

When young Oliver breaks strict mealtime routine to ask workhouse warden Mr. Bumble for more, his insolence gets him sold to the undertakers for five pounds. He is to work as a junior coffin follower and sleep among the tools of the trade, surviving on the dog's leftover scraps. After he attacks a taunting Noah Claypole (played with delightful meanness by Jeremy Bontadelli), Oliver runs away and meets the Artful Dodger who introduces him to Fagin and his band of talented pint-sized pickpockets. His new home and associates bring trouble and danger as Oliver struggles to find a place to belong.

Though Oliver! is a dark tale, the show comes off as cheerful more than anything else. Jack Larson's Fagin is instantly captivating and one of the firmest pillars in the production. His performance is wonderfully playful and endearing, greedy and unlawful though his character may be. Jennifer Justice and Dan Kapler are perfectly matched as the volatile Nancy and Bill Sykes, delivering believable villainy, despair, and doom. The strong vocals of Justice are also a pleasing element. David Kahawaii's Oliver is sweet but pale and practically transparent when paired with other cast members. His delicate portrayal is outshined by the confident and glowing CJ Carlson's "Dodger" exudes charm and fun. Carlson also impresses with his solid British accent.

The first half of the show is the more engaging of the two, containing the wonderful songs "Consider Yourself," "Pick A Pocket or Two," and "I'd Do Anything." The resolution of the story comes with startling speed in the second act and seems almost too easily accomplished. But all in all Oliver! is an enjoyable experience with great music suited for all ages.

Ticket prices are $23 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for juniors. TBA members enjoy the show for $12. To purchase tickets or for more information call (510) 881-6777 or visit

Nov 9 - Dec 9
Friday and Saturday 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m.
Thursday November 29 and December 6 at 8 p.m.
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 North Third St., Hayward
(510) 881-6777

Tickets $15-$23

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