Kids steal the show at Rep's 'Oliver!'
We're paraphrasing here, but there's an old show business adage that goes something like this: Never follow kids on stage.
Well, take in the Rochester Repertory Theatre 's production of "Oliver!"for the answer.
You'll see five absolutely charming kids steal the show from five of the more experienced actors on local stages, starting right with the opening number, "Food, Glorious Food."
Ryan Stotts,who directs this show for the Rep, had to know that would happen. He had to know audiences would swoon over the fantastic five: Logan Ackerman, Jacob Decker, William Laudon(who plays Oliver), Toni St. Godardand Jonas Tilburt,none of them older than 13.
It kind of makes you feel bad for Karl Bristol, Mark Hansen, Denise Ruemping, Lawrence Sinakand Suzie Stier-Waletzski,the veteran actors Stotts recruited for this 10-person version of the hit musical. They're perfectly fine. They know what they're doing. They're experienced performers.
The kids, however, don't perform, and that's why they steal the show. They have no filter, no pretenses, no fear.Whereas more experienced actors worry about creating a character, these youngsters simply become the characters. They are authentic and direct.
Luckily so, because, for all of its fresh creativity and imagination, this show can be a bit ornate and busy.
But really, you can't go wrong with a play that includes songs such as "Consider Yourself," "As Long as He Needs Me," "Where is Love?"and "Reviewing the Situation,"the latter performed by Sinak as Fagin, the old crook who runs a network of young pickpockets.
Hansen plays the evil Bill Sikes and the admirable Mr. Brownlow. Ruemping is Widow Corney, Mrs. Bedwin and Mrs. Sowerberry, while Stier-Waletzki is Nancy, Sikes' good-hearted girlfriend. Music accompaniment is by Ruth Benningon keyboard.
Because nearly everyone in the cast plays multiple characters, costume changes take place in the background of ongoing scenes.
All of these characters revolve around Oliver Twist, the orphan boy who falls in with the wrong peopletime and again before finally finding the love of a family.
Stotts has said he designed this scaled-down "Oliver!" specifically to fit the Rep's small performing space. The success of his production should encourage the Rep to take similar chances. And to also perhaps get more kids on the stage.