A long, oak table with a cream satin tablecloth resides center stage (Set Design: Jeffrey D. Kmiec, Properties Design: Sally Zack). It harbors all the ornate, ostentatious dinner accoutrements one would expect from an upper class, Victorian English society. Old men in extravagant clothes quietly indulge in a feast, when suddenly, their tremendous privilege is interrupted by the arrival of sixteen young, disheveled orphan boys. As they begin to sing the fan-favorite song Food, Glorious Food the boys, as well as ensemble members, begin to strip away the garish set pieces, dismantling the aristocratic fantasy they appear to have created in their minds. The orphans are left with a bare table, their tattered clothing, and one another. We are left with a heightened sense of classism juxtaposed with the enchanting charm of sixteen children.
Set in the 1800s, this Lionel Bart musical originally based on Dickens’s classic Oliver Twist, centers its story on a young orphan boy, Oliver Twist (Kai Edgar), and his journey to answer the question he poses in Where Is Love?, one of his signature songs. The tale begins at Oliver’s orphanage where he is clearly mistreated and malnourished. After he’s sold to an even worse family, Oliver runs away to London where he’s sure he’ll find his fortune—monetarily and emotionally. When a group of smiley kid-bandits take him in, Oliver vows to help the children and their guardian/leader Fagin (William Brown) with their criminal shenanigans. After Oliver is caught and taken to court, he’s taken in by a kind man and his housekeeper. They seem to finally answer his lofty question. Unfortunately, for fear of discovery of his child-employed pickpocketing ring, Fagin employs two of his cronies to kidnap Oliver back, endangering his chances of finally having a loving family.
Though done in the round, all the actors in the Marriot Theatre’s largest cast ever consistently find ways to cleverly engage each side of the audience (Director: Nick Bowling). The choreography follows the same suit (Choreographer: Brenda Didier). There are many endearingly fun, smart standout moments like the group number Oom-Pah-Pah as well as the whimsical moment when the children use parasols as wheels in a make-believe car that circles the stage. The energy of the entire ensemble is youthful and electric with –in this writer’s opinion— especially memorable and poignant performances by Nancy (Lucy Godinez), Fagin (William Brown), and Oliver (Kai Edgar).
Marriott Theatre Assembles Charming Cast
With so much focus on the adorable children, and the pomp and circumstance of a classic musical, the heavier (and potentially more transformative) themes such as classism seemed to fall by the wayside, in this writer’s view. It does make way for a fun crowd-pleaser. As incredibly charming and polished as it was, you too might end up thinking it is lovely, but passion-hungry.
This musical is certainly recommended to anyone who loves classic musical theatre performed in a sincere, and delightfully lighthearted manner. Fun for the whole family, you can expect Oliver! to win over your heart.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Kai Edgar, Kayden Koshelev, William Brown, Lucy Godinez, Patrick Scott McDermott, with Caron Buinis, Jason Grimm, Matthew R. Jones, Bethany Thomas, Dan Waller, Aubrey Adams, Emily Agy, Tony Carter, Gilbert Domally, Kelly Felthous, Terry Hamilton, Michael Haws, Mark David Kaplan, Liam Quealy, Cassie Slater, Elizabeth Telford, Jeremiah Alsop, Lexis Danca, Max DeTogne, Ziare Paul-Emile
Set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec
costume design by Sally Dolembo
lighting design by Jesse Klug
sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin
wig design by Miguel A. Armstrong
and properties design by Sally Zack
with dialect coach Kathy Logelin
fight and intimacy choreographer Gaby Labotka
stage manager David A. Loranca
and musical superviser by Patti Garwood.
Through December 29, 2019
Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.,
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,
Fridays at 8 p.m.,
Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.,
and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.,
Thursday 1:00 p.m
10 Marriott Dr.
About the Author:
Lauren Lynch is a Chicago-based theatremaker by night and education administrator by day. She has undergraduate degrees in Theatre and English from Austin Peay State University and an MFA in Arts Administration from Texas Tech University. When she's not at work or seeing/creating theatre, you can find her enthusiastically playing board games with friends or stealing cuddles from her dog, Harry Pupper.