Saturday, May 6, 2017

reviews - OLIVER! - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Edward Prostak and Cassandra Norville Klaphake and cast
photo by Scott Samplin
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)
Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 21st.

"...Lionel Bart...adapted a heavily streamlined version of the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist...one of the great theatrical musicals of all time. ...Bart managed to make an unsavory dark and brooding theme ...into an upbeat, rousing, tuneful adventure...Arizona Broadway Theatre...an impressive looking production...under Lizzie Webb’s direction, it sounds splendid....The cast of children, either as starving paupers in the workhouse or as thieves in Fagin’s den, work well as a large ensemble, though less so as leads. ...it’s the casting of the supporting performers who appear more effective in the smaller roles than the leads. ...Edward Prostak’s Fagin...manages to make a truly reprehensible character almost likable, though he’s missing that moment of genuine menace...Geoff Belliston’s Bill Sykes is threatening by sheer appearance alone...ABT’s casting director, Cassandra Klaphake, has miscast herself in the plum role of Nancy. ...she can certainly belt those powerhouse Lionel Bart solos...as the young woman that Dickens conceived, one generation removed from Fagin’s current crop of pickpockets, she can’t possibly convince. The rushed climax is also a problem, and poorly executed....technically, the show is outstanding. Aided by Amanda Gran’s Dickensian era wigs and make-up, Lottie Dixon’s costume design perfectly recreates the looks and colors of the originals, particularly in the way those characters appeared in the ‘68 movie. But it’s Douglas A Clarke’s set design, lit by Paul A. Black’s atmospheric lighting, that steals the show....With Kurtis W. Overby’s energetic choreography and those wonderful songs, this Oliver! may have some casting and directorial issues, but ultimately the positives outweigh the negatives. Again, the source material is just too good.  And it clearly remains one of the best looking productions ABT has presented for some time." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...With familiar songs, a large talented cast and superb creative elements, (ABT's) production of the classic show Oliver! is a sumptuous endeavor....it is a highly abbreviated version of the Dickens novel. ...The omission of several supporting characters and plot points makes for a fast moving show but that also eliminates some emotional elements, and the character of Oliver all but disappears for about half of the second act. Even the ending shifts the focus to Fagin instead of the title character. Fortunately, Bart's score is sensational, with many catchy, rousing ensemble numbers and two excellent ballads... a capable cast who deliver fairly good portrayals of these well-known characters and the overall production is the best looking show I've seen by this company. Douglas A. Clarke's set design...and Paul A. Black's sensational lighting...create an abundance of impressive visual images. Lottie Dixon's costumes are equally as good, with rich fabrics, and Amanda Gran's wigs and hair designs are superb. Andy Meyers directs the show to move at a fairly fast clip aided by Kurtis W. Overby's lively choreography and Lizzie Webb's skilled music direction. The three leads all do well with the vocal requirements of the score and create fine portrayals of these well-known characters. Corban Adams evokes a shy but sweet demeanor as Oliver...As Fagin, Edward Prostak displays a good sense of compassion and care for the boys he employs and steers clear from playing the part too over the top or comical. A stronger sense of menace and foreboding would help to give more layers to the character and make us not quite sure of Fagin's true intentions. As Nancy, the older female who serves as a surrogate mother figure for Oliver and the other members of Fagin's gang, Cassandra Norville Klaphake and her bright, brassy voice deliver a powerful "As Long as He Needs Me" and she emotes plenty of sentiment in both her lyrics and dialogue to portray the pain Nancy has suffered in her life....There are just a couple of small issues with the cast. Klaphake is probably a little too old for the part of Nancy in comparison to most other productions I've seen and the age of the character in the novel, but she and Belliston look realistic as a couple so it's not too much of an issue. While the majority of the actors deliver fine performances, there are a few others, including the trio who play the Sowerberry family, who are the ones who first buy Oliver, who are so over the top and broad that it almost seems like they are in a completely different show. Fortunately, those few missteps are mostly forgotten when offset by the performances from the rest of the cast, the excellent Tony winning score, and the sensational creative elements that ABT has delivered. The end result is a fine production of this classic show..... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Andy Meyers's production of OLIVER! (on stage through May 21st at Arizona Broadway Theatre): exuberant choreography (Kurtis Overby) and a dynamic song-and-dance ensemble to match. There is none of the darkness in OLIVER! of Charles Dickens's account of an orphan boy left to wander the streets of Victorian London...Oliver Twist (Tristan Klaphake, alternating with Corban Adams) in the musical is almost incidental...Fagin (Edward Prostak) is less sinister than comical...Prostak, however, is undeniably charming and alluring...When Cassandra Klaphake as Nancy belts out "As Long As He Needs Me," it's like you've been transported to a concert hall..
Marvelous comical moments are provided along the line, compliments of the workhouse caretakers, ...Douglas Clarke's set, Lottie Dixon's costumes, and Paul Black's lighting enhance the Broadwayish luster of this production of OLIVER!......" - - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review

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