Consider Yourself At Home

Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 7:00 am By: Michall Jeffers Source: WomanAroundTown.com

I was standing in the lobby of the Westchester Broadway Theatre when it struck me what a perfect choice the current production, Oliver!, is for this arena. All around me were patrons greeting each other as old friends, audience members of all ages eager to see the show, and those who could hardly wait to sit down and enjoy the nice dinner they’ve come to expect. They are all part of the Westchester Broadway Theatre family. Without them and their continued support, this first class dinner theater wouldn’t survive.

 

At the heart of it, Oliver! is most of all about family. The title character (Brandon Singel), a poor young orphan, asks for more food, and enrages his keepers, the evil Mr. Bumble (John Treacy Egan) and Mrs. Corney (Regina Singel). He’s sold to the not much better Sowerberry funeral home, run by a couple (John Caldara and Christina Tompkins) who think he’ll be a fine coffin follower, especially in the case of a child’s burial. Oliver escapes, and is taken under the wing of The Artful Dodger (Todd Ritch). He’s introduced to Fagin (John Anthony Lopez), who runs a gang of kids who are pickpockets. In this den of thieves, Oliver finds a home. Nancy (Lucy Braid), a prostitute with the proverbial heart of gold, takes a shine to the boy. She and her co-worker, Bet (Cali LaSpina) lighten up the hovel with song and dance. But all is not fun and games, especially where the dastardly criminal Bill Sykes (Brian Krinsky) is concerned.

Director John J Fanelli has wisely chosen an interracial cast of urchins, and the decision to use both girls and boys in Fagin’s crew adds to the sense of how young and basically good natured the children are. He and set designer Steve Loftus have created a plan which uses the stage to the best advantage possible, shifting locations by raising and lowering the center platform, and adding effective touches like the string of handkerchiefs above Fagin’s lair. Carrie Silvernail has undertaken the daunting task of choreographing a stage full of performers, in various configurations, throughout the show. The fact that she’s worked so well with largely non-professional kids is much to her credit. The Bottari and Case costumes are an eye-catching combination of dull gray for the orphanage kids; dressed up rags for Nancy and Bet; and a colorful mash-up of top hat, burgundy jacket with tails, green vest, and plaid pants for The Artful Dodger.

There are some interesting choices made in this production. I’ve never before seen a Dodger who’s a full grown man; it changes the dynamic, particularly with Nancy and Bet, but Ritch holds nothing back, and makes it plausible. Oliver’s “Where