Theater Review: NAT’s Oliver! has strong cast

Having seen the film version of the musical adaptation of Dickens’ Oliver Twist a few weeks ago, my expectations were not high. That film, filled with complicated choreography, scenes with hundreds of extras and over-elaborate sets, did not prepare me for the NAT version. The almost stark stage was also a bit puzzling, but from the very first moment, we see the heart of Oliver!

Christy Montour-Larson returns to NAT to direct. Too many times, casts of children are difficult to stage. She has done a superb job. The workhouse children, Fagin’s gang and the youth ensemble are too many to mention, but a few stand out. Chase McIntosh is adorable, and the young ladies who portrayed boys gave perfect performances. We didn’t have a clue. Pauline Urso’s choreography is stellar. There isn’t a single misstep, and Alan Williams’ costumes meet every expectation. Speaking to Aaron Matthew Ray following the performance, we spoke of Timm Adams’ musical direction, and Ray could not say enough about how well he worked with the entire cast.

The actors were well miked, and the recorded score kept everyone on pitch and perfectly paced. There is not a dull moment. Michael Neuman, as Oliver, an extremely competent fifth grader, has experience envied by many professionals. He has played Winthrop in The Music Man at Fireside Theatre, Gavroch in Les Miserables, and most recently, Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Gifted with perfect pitch, his beautiful voice made every song memorable. Friend Gordon Odegard plays multiple roles, the most touching that of Mr. Brownlow, the orphan’s grandfather. Jennifer Buhrow is the abused Nancy, and her solos are exceptional. The familiar “As Long As He Needs Me” is especially well done. As Mr. Sowerberry, Mark Douglas-Jones seems something out of a horror movie, and as his wife, Kathy Stevens displays a talent for comedy.

Of course, the inimitable Josh Burton is the devious Fagin. A velvet coat and plumed hat exemplify his desire for the material world, and in “Reviewing the Situation,” he tells us the entire story with impeccable timing. The show ends with a reprise with the Artful Dodger, Nat Klaung.

NAT needs our support. Everyone involved with the theater is striving to maintain its excellence. Financial support is critical. Do support our local theater. Oliver! runs through Dec. 31. Single tickets are available as well as balance of season subscriptions. Box Office—964-6282.

From the Dec. 13-19, 2006, issue

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