Dylan Delaney stars in the role of Footlighters Theater's production of OLIVER!

Beloved British Musical at Footlighters: OLIVER!

by Connie Giordano
Dylan Delaney and Rich Lee in a scene from OLIVER!

Dylan Delaney and Rich Lee in a scene from OLIVER!

Originally based on Charles Dicken’s classic Oliver Twist, British musical OLIVER! opened at Footlighters Theater this weekend. With a robust cast of over 50, the audience’s enthusiasm for the mostly youngster production did not go unnoticed.  Lionel Bart’s Tony Award winning musical first premiered in London’s West End in 1960, and has been delighting audiences ever since.

Directors Carmen Rossi and Sarah Sperling had their work cut out for them with such a large cast on a small stage.  To compensate, they utilized the theater aisles for some of the action.  For the most part it worked, with some memorable interactive songs including the ominous “Who Will Buy?”  Very much like a primary school production however, there was a general lack of commitment with much of the young chorus members, which left me wondering, why utilize so many? Why not cast those truly committed and mature enough for the production?  They would have had an easier time staging with fewer choral members, and more opportunity for action on stage where it belonged.  The audience is left unsure of the actual ending to the story, because the play’s conclusion is played mostly in the aisles and the back of the theater.  Like the Broadway production, I was hoping for a choral finale of some of the more memorable numbers as well.  Despite some awkward staging moments, overall the show was entertaining; a sure crowd-pleaser for supportive friends and family members.

Among the young ensemble, Dylan Delaney in the title role encompassed the sweet innocence of the young orphan abused and misguided by a sordid cast of characters in his impoverished surroundings.  Perfectly cast, his sweet rendition of “Where is Love?” was a mark to this youngster’s rising star, if he keeps going.  Matt Sheaffer as the Artful Dodger is one to keep an eye on as well; his confidence onstage and acting chops were very impressive for an eighth grader.  Megan Wilson as the lovely Bet was a treat to watch as well.

Jeanine Brotherston-Braack and Brian Atkinson as Nancy and Bill Sykes in OLIVER! at Footlighters Theater.

Jeanine Brotherston-Braack and Brian Atkinson as Nancy and Bill Sykes in OLIVER! at Footlighters Theater.

Some adult actors to be recognized included Rich Lee as the bumbling Mr. Bumble, Brian Atkinson as Bill Sykes, Dave Richman in a variety of silent but  supporting character roles, and the husband and wife team of Danny and Sue Scott as the sinister Sowerberrys.  A clear stand-out in the adult ensemble was Jeanine Brotherston-Braack as the broken yet loving Nancy, lover to Sykes and leading mistress of the band of urchins that entice Oliver into their gang.  Her professionalism and competence onstage challenged fellow actors to rise to her level.  Between her command with the lively Oom Pa Pa, and her lovely rendition of As Long as He Needs Me, she was a true favorite among the cast.

This beloved musical’s recent UK revival in 2009 proved it’s a timeless tale that still enchants its audience, with memorable tunes and a distinctive cast of characters; it’s a treat the whole family can enjoy.

Book and Music by Lionel Bart
Directed by Carmen Rossi and Sarah Sperling
May 17 – June 8, 2013
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA

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1 comment

Sue Scott May 29, 2013 - 9:04 am

Connie, thanks so very much for coming to see OLIVER and for your well penned and well thought out review. Your time and your comments are all greatly appreciated.

I feel compelled to share the one piece of OLIVER that our audience cannot see of which I am most proud and that is the experience and the growth that we have seen develop with our young “workhouse” and “Fagin” boys. We had a number of children who came to auditions who were brand new to the experience, even some who were so self-conscious that they left without auditioning – but came back with some encouragement from our staff. They were cast for their potential. Over the past few months, we have watched these children grow in stature and confidence and stage presence, with many of them now anxious to continue learning and acting and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones. This piece was worth the price of admission to me. I watched community theater grow my own daughter into a self-confident stage presence and I’ve had the pleasure of watching our “Oliver” do the same over the past year…. growing from a shy boy to the young man providing our OLIVER audience with the great performance he now gives every night.

In my experience with Philadelphia’s community theater (which has changed the lives of my family) – I have learned that there are two experiences important to the effort: the experience we bring to our audience (on which we work countless hours to make it worth their time and money), and the experience we bring to our cast and crew members (where the volunteers always gain more from the experience than those for whom we perform). It is for these reasons that we are involved in community theater, that we support community theater and that we encourage any and all comers to take the plunge and join us. It’s a wonderful journey! We are so glad to share it with you.


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