Written by Mike Martin
The Attic Theater’s Oliver! is an energetic production with more than its fair share of charm. That said, uneven casting and direction which sways between detrimental and non-existent keeps it well within the realm of what audiences have unfortunately come to expect from the words “community theater.”
Any given production of Oliver! can only be as entertaining as the young performers it has cast in it. Fortunately, this production has a charming group of kids who in many respects harbor real talent. In the title role Adam Williams is a terrific singer and looks spot on for his part. He does tend to check out of scenes when he isn’t directly involved in them, but when he’s engaged he’s a lot of fun to watch and listen to. As the Artful Dodger, Lily Horns sometimes struggles with her accent and a rather ridiculous wig the production team has forced upon her, but she brings an infusion of energy that livens up any scene she is in. The other kids do many of the things young kids tend to do in live theater (yes the obligatory wave to parents did occur), but for the most part they are cheerful, engaged and enthusiastic.
Strangely enough where this show fails is with its supporting cast of adults. The older players seem to be placed into roles that are outside their vocal range and are required to do numbers beyond their dancing capabilities. Two important things to mention: I did review this show on opening night… So some jitters and flubs are expected, and this show is double cast in many of its roles… as such, there is a chance that some of the other cast may be stronger. But if this is the case it begs the question: why dilute the talent you have?
Jim Huffman is serviceable as Fagin if lacking some of the bite necessary to the part and Liz Kunce’s Nancy is acted with great passion even though she doesn’t have the belt range for the musical end of things. As Mr. Bumble Matt Koutroulis seems to be laughing at his own performance rather than allowing the audience to see the humor in his character’s officious nature, and Paul Miller has a nice look but an almost indecipherable accent as Bill Sykes.
It does seem that a great many of these things could have been addressed and in some cases, fixed by a steady hand in the director’s chair. Here however, the actors are left to their own devices without concrete blocking or sense of purpose. Crowd scenes are deathly silent, and pillows are patted repeatedly as a strange substitute for housekeeping. Scene changes are performed in an odd quiet which is accompanied only by the scrapes and thuds of furniture. The end of the show is particularly confusing and rushed leaving the audience to wonder:
A: What just happened? – I’m not entirely sure…
B: Is it over? – Yes.
Technically, sound levels were all over the place in the first act and settled considerably in the second (most likely opening night jitters in the booth), the lighting told the story well but did bleed into the audience a bit much, and the set was well constructed and modular enough to represent all the needed environments. As in so many productions these days, a projection screen is also used in the rear of the stage. Costumes were of a standard as one would expect at this level but it could be suggested that performers who reappear as a different person in the following scene at least change a hat or something.
Hopefully, with one weekend of performance under their belt, the actors will become more comfortable in their roles and perhaps fill in the blanks the director left on stage. It’s not as if this show is beyond saving, but the actors may have to do the heavy lifting… Neither the director nor the theater seems to have the inclination, perhaps trusting to pack the stage with kids and hope they have lots of supportive family members.
June 16 – July 10th 2016
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