Tonight was a special night for one of our smaller theatre companies, Citadel Theatre Company of Lake Forest. They are in their 13th season (always an unlucky number, according to tradition and “old Wives”). Their venue is the very intimate space in the old Lake Forest High School, on Waukegan Road, just south of Route 60. It is a very intimate space and has been remarkable for comedies and dramas that fit a small space. They are now busting out and doing musicals. Not just musicals (one would think smaller musicals such as “The Fantastiks” or “Next To Normal” would be very fitting for the space), but large scale productions, such as the one that opened tonight, “Oliver”! I should rephrase my statement, just to be fair. Tonight, was the last preview and the show opens on the 20th of November and will run through the 20th of December.
The clever staff of Citadel has constructed an amazing set (David Geinosky) that allows multi levels and can be changed from Fagin’s abode, to the streets of London, to the orphanage where it all begins with great speed and allows the flow of director Pat Murphy to never lose the attention of the audience. He uses not only the stage, but the aisles so that while our eyes are drawn to the action, offstage actors can strike sets and add new ones. The flow of the story is essential as this is billed a “family show”, thus little kids will be in the audience. The overall time on this one is 2 1/2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. Little ones could have (or become) a problem.
Jennifer Cupani’s choreography is clever and her use of the small stage works to perfection. This is not a large dance show, but dance does keep the action moving. David Lundholm (costumes) and Rachel Lake (lighting) along with the props (Geinosky and Steve Malone) all work to make the show seamless. Remember, this was a run-through where they explained they may have to stop the show to make sure things were working properly – They never did, because it all worked, “better than properly”! The sound (many were body miked) was a sheer delight as we heard every word (and understood the words as well). The music (Dan Ermel, music director) was never overpowering. I could not tell if it was recorded or played backstage somewhere as the audience could not spy a musician at all. One thing is for sure, it was well done, whether live or “Memorex”!
Everyone knows that “Oliver” is the musical version of Dicken’s “Oliver Twist” with a book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. While this is an unusual “twist” of choices for the “holiday musical”, why not? The story is as happy an ending as one could want. Oliver does find his lost “family” and while other characters suffer tragedy, it is our young hero that is of the greatest importance, and he is okay. The songs that are most familiar from this show are “Food,Glorious Food”, “It’s a Fine Life”, “I’d Do Anything”, “Ooom-Pah-Pah”, “Where is Love”, “Who Will Buy”, “Consider Yourself” and the breathtaking “As Long As He Needs Me” performed to perfection by the lovely Erin Renee Baumrucker as Nancy. In fact this is a sterling cast of players. Two of the main boys are “double cast” (meaning that they alternate playing the roles). The title character, Oliver was played in this performance by Zachary Fewkes who is small in stature but has great stage presence and a voice that will bring a smile, or tear to your face. the other actor in this role is Roy Gantz. The boys fall into ensemble places on their “off” nights.
The Artful Dodger, one of the most colorful characters ever developed by a writer is played by the adorable Asher Alcantara who will warm your heart and soul with his development of this young lad. Logan Aldrich is the alternate. Fagin, the miserly thief who takes in Oliver and teaches him the value of a dollar is played by Henry Michael Odum ( the lone Equity actor who makes this show qualify as an Equity production) has as much fun with this role as one can ( I did the role back in the late 1990’s in Buffalo Grove, so I know from whence I speak- it is the “plum” role in the life of a character actor). Other cast members with shining spots: Nancy Greco as Widow Corney (also played by Mary Nigohosian) plays well off her , Mr. Bumble (deftly handled by Steve Malone). Nancy’s little sister/sidekick, Bet is played by Haley Noll (this is a silent role in most productions, but this young lady sand along with Nancy and has a lovely voice).
The ensemble is made up of Dustin Rothbart, Ken Rubenstein, Amy Hepburn, Alisha Fabbi, Annie Snow, Andy Clifton, Natalie Rae, Alison Stake, Aaron Mann, John Beneschek, and Preston Smith- adults who played several roles. Then we have the orphans and Fagin’s Boys (some of which were girls, and undisguised, which was a bit distracting)Abigail Ticho, Cate Gordon, Mark Hellwig, Ashley MacDougal, Ben Miller and Evan Varones- don’t forget, the other two lads who are double cast, are in the ensemble on their off nights. There is one more actor to mention -Michael Ermel as the “baddest of men” Bill Sykes. Nice job with the song (if one can call his entrance a song) and he is scary, so he got the job done. The lady next to me jumped as he walked behind us in his entrance.
While this is far from the best production of “Oliver” I have seen, I must congratulate the Citadel Theatre for taking the chance on doing a full scale BIG musical in their small theater and adding some intimacy to what otherwise is known for the biggest of stages. They also found some great voices to fit the characters and in fact did a superb job of casting a difficult show. Impressive is the key word. They have now proven that a musical is in their wheelhouse and so, I , for one am anxious to see what they will do with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”- Bring it on!
“Oliver” will continue through December 20th at The Citadel Theatre. 300 South Waukegan Road (Rte 43) in Lake Forest with lots of free parking. Tickets range from $35.00 to $37.50
|Fri, Nov 20:||8:00pm|
|Sat, Nov 21:||8:00pm|
|Sun, Nov 22:||3:00pm|
|Fri, Nov 27:||8:00pm|
|Sat, Nov 28:||8:00pm|
|Sun, Nov 29:||3:00pm|
|Wed, Dec 2:||11:00am|
|Thu, Dec 3:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Dec 4:||8:00pm|
|Sat, Dec 5:||8:00pm|
|Sun, Dec 6:||3:00pm|
|Wed, Dec 9:||11:00am|
|Thu, Dec 10:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Dec 11:||8:00pm|
|Sat, Dec 12:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Dec 13:||3:00pm|
|Thu, Dec 17:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Dec 18:||8:00pm|
|Sat, Dec 19:||3:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sun, Dec 20:||3:00pm|
Show Type: Musical
Box Office: 847-735-8554
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Oliver”