That Time I Actually Sat Through a Production of Oliver

Here’s the thing about Oliver - anyone that says they love the show is probably lying because that is not possible. Why? Replace the character of Oliver with a female and you have a show that could be a Lifetime Original Movie. Hell, the character of Nancy, for all of her BAMF moments, is the typical Lifetime heroine, especially her end fate.

Yeah, the ending to Oliver isn’t uneven in tone at all!

The good news is...the production of Oliver that opened this past weekend at Papermill Playhouse is pretty solid. There is that charm and nostalgia the show needs to tap into in order to become tolerable as we watch Oliver get tossed around from factory to coffin house to the streets (literally).

By the time the shenanigans kick up with the one-two punch of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” and “It’s a Fine Life,” the show just gets too darn fun. I mean, for all the cuteness on display in the beginning (kind of), those two songs entail the thievery needed to survive and the danger (or masochism) Nancy and the boys are entrenched in. That portion of the show always has worked because they have a dark undercurrent without being too bizarrely dark. Yes, I’ll say it…Oliver just takes a weird turn once Bill Sikes is introduced. Then again, what do you expect from a musical adapted from a Charles Dickens novel?

But yeah, “It’s a Fine Life" may have made their way through a late-night karaoke fest. No shame.

But what really elevated this production was the slick, well-oiled direction. Papermill is, by no means, a pushover in the production values and moving set pieces department. I mean, this is where Newsies made its pre-Broadway debut. But between the period-appropriate set design and Mark S. Hoebee's stunning work, I would have never know that I had to trek out to New Jersey. Polish goes a long way in instances like these.

The ensemble full of its little ragamuffins and dancers are lovely also. But c’mon, the show is a waiting game until Nancy turns up and Betsy Morgan knew exactly what to do. Girl has got pipes for days. And I’ll never complain about Jose Llana being cast in a show; his Bill Sikes is menacing and that is all you need to know.

It is a credit to this production that it isn’t solely for the Oliver purists (the three of you out there) and I wasn’t irritated by the all the youths (something that happens more then you would expect). And you might find yourself bopping your head at Lionel Bart’s classic score and enjoying some nice sequences as they unfold. For a non-Broadway production not starring Samantha Barks, that is saying something.

Ticket Provided by the Production

Photo Credit: Broadway World

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