There’s nothing like a cozy evening in Middletown, Delaware, for an opening night at the Everett Theatre. There’s a lot to love about the Everett, a beautiful historic theater that dates back to 1868 and sits on Middletown’s Main Street, a stretch so charming it’s nearly exotic to an upstater like me (not that my hometown of Wilmington doesn’t have its charm). This year, the Everett’s holiday offering is OLIVER!, the acclaimed British musical based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
OLIVER! tells the story of a young orphan in 19th Century London and the people he comes in contact with in a corrupt workhouse, an undertaker’s business, the criminal underground, and the London’s posh elite. Dickens’ novel showed the cruel reality of 19th Century street waifs, and OLIVER! stays true to its roots, while serving a healthy dose of catchy musical numbers and humor.
As Oliver himself, Tatum Schutt (almost all of the orphans including Oliver are played by girls), emits the hungry sadness required, building up to the solo “Where Is Love?”. Lost and alone, Oliver meets The Artful Dodger, played by Cab Calloway sophomore Zachary Pennington, who looks, sounds, and acts exactly how you imagine him, if you’ve imagined him before. The Artful Dodger’s entrance moves the show to a new level, as he brings Oliver to Fagin, a sort of pickpocket mentor and overseer, played impressively by Robert Welch.
The highlight of the show is Kate Jerzak’s Nancy, a hard-drinking underworld beauty who is tough as nails, but can’t seem to break from her abusive boyfriend, a burglar called Bill Sikes, played by Jonathan Daleki. Her song song “As Long as He Needs Me” is gut-wrenching; this is as much Nancy’s story as it is Oliver’s.
All in all, OLIVER! is a great way to spend a December evening. You’ll leave with a smile on your face and the infectious songs in your head.
Music, Lyrics and Book by Lionel Bart
Directed by Mary Spacht
Music Direction by Tony Romano
December 7 – 16, 2012
47 W Main St.