Energy, enthusiasm, talent abound in CLT’s ‘Oliver!’

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AUBURN — “Oliver!” at Community Little Theatre packs the stage with a colorful and delightfully capable cast of all ages in the popular musical production running Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 16-19.

Dozens of singers, dancers, actors and musicians serve up a rousing version of the show, from the opening song’s celebration of “Food, Glorious Food” to the drama of Victorian London’s most disreputable denizens and their dishonesty. This high-energy and tuneful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, “Oliver Twist,” has been a stage favorite since 1960. As a film, it became 1968’s Academy Award winner for best picture.

Oliver, a young orphan, falls into the company of boys who are learning a life of street crime by the aging Fagin, played with delicious twinkle in-the-eye cunning by David Handley. He has appeared in CLT’s recent “Spamalot,” as well as “Kiss Me Kate,” “Mame,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

In a sprightly number called “You’ve Got To Pick a Pocket or Two,” Handley gives the boys some lessons in thievery. With that, he proceeds to steal the show with his comedic and endearing role of the elderly crook.

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Mary Randall plays Nancy, one of the gang. She gives a beautiful rendition of the show’s best-known number, “As Long As He Needs Me.” It’s a sad ballad with shades of meaning for her relationship with evil and terrifying Bill Sykes as well as her concern for young Oliver.

The title role of Oliver is played by Madeleine Vaillancourt, a fifth-grader at North Yarmouth Academy. Her voice is well suited to “Where is Love?” She does an excellent job with that song, as well as an ensemble number with the gang members, “I’d Do Anything,” and a song with London street vendors, “Who Will Buy?”

While other characters carry the majority of the musical numbers, the part of Oliver is key to the plot and requires lots of on-stage time. Vaillancourt does a fine job with the acting demands throughout the show.

A rousing tavern song called “Omm-Pah-Pah” features some good dancing by Randall (Nancy) and her friend, Bet, played by Sarah Lopez.

Several characters bring well-done humor to the show. Dan Crawford plays Mr. Bumble, the officious head of the orphan’s workhouse, and Charlotte Morin is Widow Corney. They draw howls of laughter with their hilarious scenes of courtship and marriage.

In scenes near the beginning, where Oliver is apprenticed to an undertaker, James McKinley and Melissa Toussaint put lots of humor into their roles of Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry. Meredith Crawford adds good comic touches to her portrayal of their daughter, Charlotte.

Scotty Venable plays The Artful Dodger, one of Fagin’s youthful robbers, with a light-hearted flair, and Dan Kane gives a menacing portrayal of Bill Sykes.

Henrik Standskov provides the proper balance of British upper-crust pomposity and genuine responsibility when Oliver’s true heritage is discovered.

All of the show’s critical elements are managed skillfully under the direction of Richard Martin, who is a veteran director of numerous big musicals at CLT including “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Grease.” With this show, Martin satisfies demanding audience expectations. He also honors true community theatre tradition by casting some popular troupers along with newcomers, both youngsters and some older actors, who are taking CLT into its 75th year and beyond.

The set for CLT’s “Oliver!” included impressive representations of old London’s streets, businesses, back alleys and even London Bridge. Martin and Bill Hamilton, set designer, worked with a large group of back-stage crew members.

Nearly a dozen costumers provided colorful and authentic clothing for all the actors. Melissa Guimond was choreographer and Paul G. Caron, music director, led a 12-piece orchestra. Nakesha “Kay” Warren was assistant director.

Remaining performances of “Oliver!” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16-18, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19.

Performances are at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn. For tickets call the box office at 783-0958 or go on-line to www.laclt.com.

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