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    CenterStage Oliver
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    Take a sweeping musical score, add a just-right cast with striking costumes, put it all on a visually spectacular set straight out of Dickens’ London and you'll have Centerstage's "Oliver." In the words of CenterStage’s Artistic Director John Leffert, “this show defines what community theatre is about.” 

    Not all enchantment is make-believe; and you might find yourself bewitched by the sheer talent onstage at this show. The intimacy of the venue and the pure joy with which the team at CenterStage puts on these performances combine to create a real magic for attendees. 

    Leffert loves his period pieces, complete with gorgeously detailed sets; but he's truly outdone himself with "Oliver!" As he said opening night, “this show is magical and I truly love it.” Major kudos to Stephen Ryan Lanham, Scenic Designer/mastermind, for every single detail on this fascinating set: from the filth-soiled tatters hanging from splintered wood to eerie fog creeping underneath glowing coal lanterns. The cave in the back of the stage, underneath a secret wooden awning, adds so much depth.

    One of the most engagingly-staged numbers was “Who Will Buy?” During this number, Kylie McGuffey launches into this lilting harmony while sellers of roses, knives, milk, and strawberries walk through the audience. Isaiah Hen’s small turn as the knife grinder adds a lovely resonance to the harmony. 

    This is a cast of 46 people, predominantly children. Charlie Norman’s CenterStage debut as Oliver Twist shows the first sparks of his raw, natural ability. He captures that sense of wide-eyed innocence that Leffert praised. In contrast  Riley McNerney's Artful Dodger is charmingly cheeky, all audacious swagger. 

    In Leffert’s vision, Fagin is the lead role, with Michael Drury taking an epic step away from directing and producing to take his star turn as captivating thief. Drury becomes the enchanter of the underworld of "pick-a-pocket-or-twos," torn between a life on the outskirts of the shadows and what possibility of a more respectable life. Drury plays Fagin as a deeply flawed man with palpable compassion in his ragamuffin street family. Even "Oliver!"'s smaller roles are filled-out in this production; Frank Goodloe III's Mr. Bumble is hilarious, and Brian Bowles is truly formidable Bill Sykes, nightmarish with disquieting.

    Jessica Adamson makes her mark as Nancy, wrenching hearts with “As Long As He Needs Me.” Even from her jovial introduction with “It’s A Fine Life,” Adamson plays the part perfectly, with a subtle twinge regret lurking under her feisty vitality. Her surrender to loving a man she knows is not right for her will break your heart in the way only a virtuoso performer can do. This has been her starring season at CenterStage, and every ounce of applause for her is deserved. Leffert is not afraid to shy away from the frailty of life, or its inherent darkness. But even at its darkest, there is still light, joy, and love. CenterStage walks that delicate balance with polish and imagination. 

    **

    Oliver! opened at CenterStage October 22nd, and will be playing through Sunday afternoon, November 8th. 

    PERFORMANCE DATES:
    * Thursday, October 22, 7:30 pm
    * Saturday, October 24, 7:30 pm
    * Sunday, October 25, 2:00 pm
    * Monday, October 26, 7:30 pm
    * Thursday, October 29, 7:30 pm
    * Saturday, October 31, 7:30 pm
    * Sunday, November 1, 2:00 pm
    * Monday, November 2, 7:30 pm
    * Thursday, November 5, 7:30 pm
    * Saturday, November 7, 7:30 pm
    * Sunday, November 8, 2:00 pm


    Call for tickets 238-2720 or click here for online tickets. It is sure to be a thought-provoking, spectacular family treat. Dare to enter Dickens' delightful shadow world of London- perfect for a chilly fall night!

    Click here for a video sneak peek!

    **

    You can help participate in CenterStage's "Food, Glorious Food!" Drive by bringing nonperishable food items to the JCC lobby. Donations will be accepted until Sunday, November 8th, the final performance of Oliver! All donations will benefit Dare to Care and the JCFS Food Pantry.

    **

    All Photos: Courtesy of John Leffert and CenterStage's facebook page; Video: Courtesy of CenterStage's facebook page

    Julie Lamb's picture

    About Julie Lamb

    Curly-haired owner of one massive sweet tooth, believer of Harry Potter and Disney fairytales, and a fierce lover of all things literary and the arts.

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