‘Oliver!’ a great start to super CLT season

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AUBURN – “Oliver!” the popular British musical version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, “Oliver Twist,” gets the 75th year of Community Little Theatre off to a stellar start.

The show opens Friday, Oct. 10, and director Richard Martin has high praise for his large cast and for the outstanding efforts of the set design and construction crew.

Madeleine Vaillancourt, a pre-teen, has the title role of the boy who flees from an orphanage (called a workhouse in Victorian London). The story follows his harrowing experiences when he falls in with thieves, and his eventual happy-ending rescue.

It’s common for young girls to take male roles in some stage productions, including Tiny Tim in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and James Barry’s “Peter Pan. For this show, Vaillancourt is pleased to give up her long, blond hair to “Locks of Love,” a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who have lost their own hair due to medical treatment.

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Martin said, “This is one of those big musicals and the set is a microcosm of London.”

The story of “Oliver!” deals with issues including domestic violence and child labor and Martin said, “There is no sugar-coating” in this production. “We are allowing a little bit more reality.”

He said the scenes of violence and abuse will be powerfully dramatic.

The show’s scenes include London streets, the workhouse, an undertaker’s parlor, a pub, London bridge, and an up-scale home where Oliver’s true heritage comes to light.

Martin said it’s gratifying to see the way the younger members of the cast teach each other. Vaillancourt appeared in the lead role for CLT’s youth production of “Annie, Jr.” this past summer.

Several of the show’s songs will be familiar to audiences. These include “Where Is Love,” a solo by Oliver in Act I, and “As Long As He Needs Me,” a torch-song covered by many recording artists in the years since the opening of “Oliver!” in 1960.

Lionel Bart won the Tony award for best composer and lyricist when “Oliver!” came to Broadway in 1963.

Some of the production numbers Martin said audience will enjoy are “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself.” “You’ve Got To Pick a Pocket or Two,” “It‘s a Fine Life,” and “I’d Do Anything.” A particularly rowdy and somewhat risqué number is “Oom-Pah-Pah” by Nancy and the chorus.

Portraying Fagin, the aging leader of a band of youthful thieves, is David Handley. He appeared in last month’s production of “The Sorcerer” at Theater at Monmouth.

The role of Nancy will be played by Mary Randall. Martin said he directed CLT’s 2009 production of “Grease,” in which Randall played Sandy.

“Mary has spent some time in Europe where she was involved in the performing arts, and now she’s back with us,” he said.

Dan Kane will play “Sykes,” Dan Crawford is “Mr. Bumble,” and Scotty Venable plays the light-fingered “Artful Dodger.”

There’s a long list of supporting actors of all ages.

Paul Caron is musical director. He will conduct an orchestra of about a dozen musicians. Melissa Guimond is choreographer.

Performances of “Oliver!” are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 17-18, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 12 and 19. For tickets call the CLT box office at 783-0958 or go online to www.laclt.com.

The shows are performed at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn.

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