By Dan Miller
October 20, 2008
(there's a video clip at the bottom)
The classic stage musical Oliver will open in December for a new, long run in London at the historic Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and it might just be worth the long trip to see it.
But here's a tip -- trust me on this -- you don't have to cross the ocean to experience the full magic of this wonderful show.
You don't even have to leave Nashville.
Just drive out to the Looby Theatre in Metro Center on Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening... or Sunday afternoon for the matinee.
Of course, you'll have to do it by November 2nd.***
In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit my initial attachment to this production was because my daughter McKensie is a member of the ensemble cast.... but within minutes of the opening curtain I was hooked on the story, the remarkably versatile set, and the cast of engaging actors... many with professional credentials.
While watching the play I realized that I'd never seen a production of Oliver... not on stage, or on the movie screen, where it won the Oscar for Best Picture 40 years ago.
For most of my adult life I've been familiar with songs like "Consider Yourself (At Home)" and the lovely "As Long As He Needs Me".... I just didn't realize those songs were from the score of Oliver.
Right now, my new favorite song from Oliver might just be "Oom Pah Pah", which is performed with great gusto by an ensemble of all the adult cast members at the start of the second act.
And I'm still touched by Rachael Bernard's heartfelt rendering of "As Long As He Needs Me"... which seemed to cast a spell over the audience.
Standing in the lobby where the cast gathered immediately after the performance, I overheard an elderly patron congratulating young actor Evan Williams for his on-the-money portrayal of the considerably older character Fagin.
The man was explaining how he himself had, many years before, taken on the role of Fagin and therefore understood the difficulty in mastering that character on stage, which young Evan had done in such a stirring way.
There are so many affecting performances in this production of Oliver that I'm reluctant to name names, for fear that I'll omit so many performers who should be named....
But I'll say this.... Macon Kimbrough and Jamie London alone are worth the price of admission as Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney performing "I Shall Scream."
Tim Bush (all 6'4" of him) is downright intimidating as a mean Bill Sykes.
And young Wes Richardson's sensitive portrayal of Oliver would do Broadway proud.
While I'm admittedly partial to that young Miller girl, I'll have to say she has certainly extended her range as an actor, since she's actually playing a "boy" in this one.
Just check the way she's standing on the extreme left of the top photo.
She says that's her "boy posture."
By the way, McKensie told me her one and only regret about this play is that she's not included in the "Oom-Pah-Pah" scene.
The casting for Oliver is the most solid, from top to bottom, of any Circle Players show I've seen.
There's not a weak spot in the cast.
You won't even catch any of the youngest actors glancing into the audience, trying to spot Grandma.
You can credit seasoned director Clay Hillwig for that.
Near the end of the play, watch closely for a little piece of "stage magic" that would make even David Copperfield proud.
OK, so I'm a hopeless shill for the Circle Players.... but if you want to have a good time, for a very low price (even free for the very young ones), check out Oliver at the Looby Theatre.
***Sorry you missed this one, but you can watch a little one-minute video clip just below***
And CLICK HERE for info on what's in the works now for the next Circle Players production.