Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oliver Review

Having been both behind the scenes, as an actor and a director, as well as a spectator of theater, I find myself watching theater differently then I did before I was involved backstage. In general, when I watch a show (especially amateur theater) I find myself thinking, “How would I feel if I were that actor?” or “What might I have done differently as director?”

When I watched “Oliver” last Friday, I did not consider any of those questions. Instead, I thought “How on earth did he get all those young boys to sing with an English accent?”, etc. It was awesome for me to be able to simply watch theater as a spectator, as I can only do while watching a professional production or a well done movie. Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever been so fully absorbed by the story during a community theater production.

Considering the possibility of incredibly complicated and drawn out scene changes, I have to say that the set design was fantastic. In general, set piece moves were completed as the action was ongoing, being incorporated into the background action in such a way that they were noticeable but not detracting at all. Personally I found it fascinating (from a director’s point of view) to watch how it all fit together. As an engineer, I marvel at the ingenuity.

The acting was excellent, from the smallest of the boys to the eldest of the adults. My particular favorites (in no particular order) were Oliver, The Artful Dodger, Fagin, Nancy, and Bill Sykes. There was also a rather small young lady who had an impressively large voice… unfortunately I don’t know her name, but if you see the show you’ll know who I’m talking about. The ensemble was also excellent.

I also loved the costumes… many of them really conveyed a feeling about the character, or a mood to the scene, as they are meant to do but is rarely accomplished in community theater. I have similar comments about the lighting – it set the mood, was appropriate and only served to add to the effect of the show. The sound was also amazing; all of the actors could be heard quite clearly, even Oliver when he was inside a coffin. There was also no distracting amplification (where an actor’s voice is obviously coming from speakers and not from himself). Honestly, I’m still curious about how that was accomplished!

My only complaint about the show, actually, is the final scene – filled with very effective horrific imagery (I mean that as a compliment), the happiness in the end is almost lost. Perhaps that is how the director meant it to be, I’m not sure.

My hat goes off to Herman Sebek for creating such an impressive show; it is never easy to put on a fantastic show with so many (important!) children actors, let alone one of such magnitude. Really, “Oliver” was the most impressive work of theatrical art that I have ever seen off of Broadway. Excellent job.


kat said...

I have several friends in this production (Joe, Lisa, Erica!!!) and have a long love for this show and after reading your commentary somehow I am even MORE excited to see Oliver. I am going on Saturday night with great anticipation.

The Music Man - also done by Herman - was the BEST show I've ever seen at The Center thus far and I am positive this will top even that. I keep hearing that the show is pure magic.

Yay for community theater!!!!

Erica said...

I'm so glad the show lived up to your expectations - I loved the review!

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