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a Musical
by Lionel Bart

COMPANY : Fabrefaction Theater Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 4893

SHOWING : April 21, 2016 - May 08, 2016



Charles Dickens’ classic tale & Lionel Bart’s iconic musical come together in a fresh production for 2016 that will leave you asking for MORE!

“Food, Glorious Food,” “Where is Love,” “As Long As He Needs Me” …the songs of "Oliver!" and motley characters who sing them have secured this “twisted” Dickens tale’s place in the hearts of generations of theater-goers. This April-May, Fabrefaction Theatre Conservatory’s candid production will give new perspective to Oliver’s fight to discover love and and destiny. The busheling streets of Victorian London will transform into a modernized, degraded world that is both distant and familiar as the tale of Oliver’s journey is re-lived by the characters he left behind to survive. Featuring an impressive mix of FTC’s top conservatory students and Atlanta’s finest professional union and non-union artists, "Oliver!" is FTC’s 70th production. Come see Oliver Twist as you’ve never seen him before!

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Consider Yourself Forewarned
by playgoer
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Director Christina Hoff has added a framing device to Fabrefaction’s production of "Oliver!" At the start, we see Oliver being bullied and pushed to the ground, with the children then singing "Food, Glorious Food" to Oliver. At the end, we see Oliver in the same position on the ground, then arising as if from a dream and hugging his attackers to a cappella renditions of song snippets from the show.

This concept doesn’t work, particularly since the bulk of the show is treated more as a nightmare than as a dream. The electronic-based musical tracks (by Matthew Greenia), the detritus-based set (by Nadia Morgan), and the tattered costumes (by Anna Jenny) all suggest a bleak dystopian future. Ms. Hoff has encouraged grotesquely overblown performances from Widow Corney (Blair Godshall), Mr. Bumble (John Fletcher), the Sowerberrys (Jed Drummond and Jimmica Collins), and Bill Sykes (Andrew McGill), making the nightmare continue. Then, when Dr. Grimwig (Chase Alford) shows up, his performance is flat instead of overblown, emphasizing the tonal inconsistency of this production.

True, there is an inherent inconsistency in the material, with Lionel Bart’s cheery, lighthearted score contrasting with the action occurring in the underbelly of Dickens’ London. But doing the whole show as if it were "Sweeney Todd" robs the joy from the show. It doesn’t help that the vocals in the show never rise above the acceptable. Leads Nancy (Erin Burnett) and Fagin (Adam LeBow) have their moments, but hardly come to the rescue of the show. The best voices on display come from random solo lines sung by the likes of ensemble members Alex Tischer and Sara Cox.

What works in the show is the sincerity of the story involving Oliver (Maya Curnow in the performance I saw) and Mr. Brownlow (Steve Pryor). Removing the sincerity from the rest of the plot is the fatal flaw of Ms. Hoff’s concept.

Amy Levin is credited with the sound design, but I didn’t notice any amplification when it was needed, even though several of the youngsters in the cast wore headset microphones. Ben Rawson’s lighting design tends to be on the murky side, except when it’s flashing lights for effect (and the effect in the "chase scene" at the end of the first act is uninspired, to say the least). Christen Orr’s fight choreography is quite effective, and Lauren Rosenzweig’s choreography is full of movement to start with, but deteriorates to singing people walking in a circle in act two.

It’s great that so many children are getting exposed to the demands of professional production, even though the professionals involved in this production haven’t helped to create a production with professional quality. It says a lot that I walked away most impressed by Hao Feng’s bearing and dancing as a militaristic Bow Street Runner and by Jed Drummond’s physicality as Mr. Sowerberry. That’s taking minor components of the director’s concept and blowing them out of proportion. I would have preferred seeing the time-tested entertainment values of a straightforward production of "Oliver!" [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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