Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of Oliver! is a fun, colorful treat. The 1960 musical by Lionel Bart, based on Oliver Twist, here directed by Donald Hicken and Sally Boyett, with Choreography by Sally Boyett and Music Direction by Marc Irwin, features wonderful acting, singing, and dancing by actors of all ages.
The child actors (Gavin Lampasone, Kaden Lampasone, Nyah Lampasone, Matthew Milici, Alexandra Owen, Alex Siegal, Miles Schulman, Kendra Van Wynsberghe) are delightfully talented. For some of them, this is their first time on a stage, and yet they match the adults in their confident singing and movement. From the opening number “Food, Glorious Food” they enchant as the workhouse boys, rhythmically banging their silver plates on the table. As Fagin’s gang, they show off their skills in “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” and musically march in “Be Back Soon.” The youngest, Alexandra Owen, particularly steals the show in “Be Back Soon” as she dances next to Fagin (Dexter Hamlett).
Joey D’Angelo brings an athleticism to Oliver, as he leaps and tumbles to evade his captors in the workhouse and the attempted robbery. He strikes Noah Claypole (Jarrett Bloom) and leaps on his back, putting up a great fight. He can also be sweet in “Where Is Love?” and “Who Will Buy?”, both tender songs.
Greg Jones Ellis gives an initial sternness to Bumble, silent except for his staff to indicate mealtime for the boys. He softens a bit in “Boy for Sale,” singing softly as he drags D’Angelo around the stage. He brightens with Melissa Valdivia as Widow Corney, kissing her hand as she sits in his lap as they sing “I Shall Scream.” He comically groans getting down on one knee to her, groaning again as he gets up. His later sniping with Valdivia is an amusing contrast to his flirtatiousness at the musical’s start.
Henry Niepoetter bursts with energy as the Artful Dodger, tap-dancing across the stage. He charms both D’Angelo and the audience in “Consider Yourself,” a jaunty song full of swagger, and in “I’d Do Anything,” a sweet tune. Helena Farhi gives Nancy a strong front, but with complicated feelings beneath. She sings admiringly of the thieving life in “It’s a Fine Life,” although, in the end, she reveals some troubles with it. “Oom-Pah-Pah” is a celebration of life, drinking, and having fun. “As Long as He Needs Me” is a heartfelt love song to the vicious Bill (Danny Beason); her reprise to the song adds a nice twist. Beason radiates menace as Bill, frightening the pubgoers into silence and stillness as he enters singing “My Name,” wielding his club. Several of his scenes are the most dramatic of the musical.
Dexter Hamlett thrills with roguish charm as Fagin. Although a crook, he seems protective of D’Angelo, sitting with him as he sleeps. He has comic moments too, as he tries on a tiara and rings while looking through his loot. He shines in “Reviewing the Situation,” capturing the fast-paced rhyming and humor as he paces the stage, thinking out loud. In fact, he has the last word, with a delightful reprise of “Reviewing.”
Scenic Designers Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken have created a versatile set that works well for the different scenes. Staircases are on both sides of the stage, leading to balconies on the top of each one. For the workhouse, a wooden table and two wooden benches are in the center, with small crates scattered throughout the stage. For Fagin’s hideout, cloths of various colors hang on the staircase railings. The backdrop is a screen on which Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow throws various images, such as the interiors of buildings and London streets.
Sally Boyett also serves as Costume Designer, creating outfits that help distinguish each character. Oliver starts the show in a white shirt and pants like the other workhouse boys, later putting on a brown jacket and gray cap; in Act 2 he wears a spiffy dark blue jacket and pants, with a big blue bowtie. Bumble wears a black tricorner hat and a red and gold cape, while carrying a large staff. Widow Corney wears a black dress, white apron, and white bonnet. The Artful Dodger looks dapper in a pink dress jacket, green pants, a green cravat, and a top hat. Fagin wears a long, dirty brown trench coat with a red vest and a black cowboy-style hat. Bill looks menacing in a filthy gray jacket and tie, while Nancy wears a long red dress, purple shawl, and big straw summer hat. Wig and Make-up Designer Lucy Wakeland enhances the costumes.
Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows uses lights for great effect throughout the show. Spotlights shine on the balconies during two dramatic scenes, and flash in one powerful moment. When Oliver sleeps in the funeral home, the lights dim. They darken for Nancy’s solo song.
Voice and Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the various British accents sound accurate, while remaining intelligible. Most of the accents are Cockney, but there are a few upper-class ones, all of which are discernible.
Music Director Marc Irwin beautifully blends the music with the singing, using the music to help reflect each scene’s mood, particularly towards the end. The final song of “Consider Yourself” has the audience clapping along.
Donald Hicken and Sally Boyett do a wonderful job as Directors. The actors work well together, navigating the stage and each other with ease. The choreography is excellent, with lots of dancing and movement, including lifts and somersaults, that is beautiful to watch. The actors hit all the right emotional moments, from comedy to heartache, in both the singing and the dialogue. Oliver! is a treat for all ages. Go see it!
Running Time: Approximately two hours and thirty minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.