For any of you theater lovers who missed the rebooting of “Oliver” brought back to life last year, or the splendid rendition done by Light Opera Works, never fear, because the latest production to hit our area is now on the stage at Drury Lane Oak Theatre in Oakbrook and it is by far the best production I have ever seen. Directed and Choreographed by Rachel Rockwell ( need I say more), this is a theatrical experience that will astound and amaze you. This woman is a magician! Ms Rockwell manages to use her stage to full capacity and gets her actors to give 100% plus and enjoy every minute of their performance. This is most evident in a production like “Oliver” where there are lots of kids involved. Rockwell sees what they can do and uses any special talents incorporated into the production. Again, she has the eye, the ear and the soul that a director needs to take a story and bring it to life on a stage. Bravo!
We all know “Oliver”, the Lionel Bart musical based on Charles Dickens dark story “Oliver Twist”. Bart has brought some comedy into the story and his music is masterful filled with songs that we all know : “Food, Glorious Food”, “Where is Love”, “Consider Yourself”, “Pick a Pocket or Two”, “I’d Do Anything”, “Who Will Buy” and “As Long As He Needs Me” as well as many others. With musical direction by Roberta Duchak ( with help from dialect coach Jill Walmsley Zager) we can hear and understand all of Bart’s lyrics which are a part of telling the story of this orphan who is sold to a local merchant but runs away and gets mixed up with a bunch of thieves led by Fagin ( an incredible performance by Chicago favorite John Reeger). As a thief, he is caught by the police for something he didn’t do and rescued from the workhouse by a wealthy man who as it turns out is a relative. I won’t give you all the details but for this young lad who was caught between the life of poverty and the life of being a criminal ends up in a life of happiness with a family.
What makes this musical so special , besides the wonderful music is that the characters are special and unique and Ms Rockwell knows how to tell a story- that is for sure! The set by Kevin Depinet is one that gives us the seedy side of London back in the 1800’s as well as a fine, comfortable home. The lighting (Greg Hofmann),sound( Garth Helm), costumes(Theresa Ham) and props (Nick Heggestad) are the ingredients that make a total production shine- but it is the cast of players that take this story and make for an enjoyable theatrical experience. What a cast!
In addition to Mr. Reeger, who plays the Jewish thief ( Dickens was anti-semitic to be sure), we have as Oliver, Brady Tutton, an 11 year old from Shorewood Wisconsin, who as it turns out has worked with Ms Rockwell before ( so she was aware of how much talent he has, allowing for some of the high notes to be used, where often they are not), The incredible Heidi Kettenring as Nancy and another incredible young talent J.D. Rodriguez as Artful Dodger, fagin’s right hand man (boy). His handling of “Consider Yourself” was spectacular!; John Gawlick handles the role of the evil Bill Sikes ( and I am very glad they cut his song out and did not have a dog tailing with him- kids and animals are just more than we need and these kids do not deserve to be upstaged).’ Michale Aaron Lindner and Catherine Smitko as Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney, the orphanage trustees are both terrific (and having seen many productions of this show, I must say that the way they played off each other was by far the best I have ever seen) Other major characters are Larry Adams as Mr. Brownlow ( Oliver’s Grandfather), Don Forston in several roles,Catherine Lord,Glory Kessel,Benjamin Magnuson and Rebecca Pink.
The ensemble is one of great energy, strength and talent as they take on many roles, costume changes and do some great dancing as well, but let’s fact it, it i sthe kids that will steal your hearts and want to take one home with you. They are brilliant performers, who not only have talent to spare, but the are having fun on the stage and not one, not once broke character- as an orphan or as one of Fagin’s boys:John Babo,Cody Bolithon,William Burke, Justin Hunt Cole, Declann Collins ( who tonight stepped in as Charlie, one of Fagin’s top boys), Cameron Conforti,Daniel Coonley, Brennan Dougherty, Shane Frantz,Cameron A. Goode,Kyle Halford, Jake Helm,Cale Manning, Ben Parkhill,Daniel Pass, Johnny Rabe, Matthew Uzarraga and Michael Winner. They are all Winners! Worth the price of admission to watch them do their thing!
This is one that you should mark in your date book as a MUST SEE! “Oliver” will continue at Drury Lane Theatre located at 100 Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace ( just North of the shopping center, east of Rt.83 and North of Cermak Rd/22nd street) through June 2nd with performances as follows:
Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.
The running time including a 15 minute intermission- 2 1/2 hours)
Tickets range from $39-$49 ( what a deal) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at -630-530-0111 orby calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000 or online at www.drurylane.com
There are dinner or lunch packages available as well an dthey have great food from $50-$74 ( that is ticket and meal) and there are student and senior discounts as well.
Plenty of free parking as well as valet.
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Oliver”