Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Oliver! review -- It's like Annie with boys!

I've written before about my girls' obsession with musical theatre. It hit fever pitch this year after I took them to see OPRF's 110-person production of Les Miserables and Fenwick's The Wiz.

But after treating myself to The Book of Mormon (not for kids!) I wanted to check out more professional family-friendly fare in addition to our steady diet of high school and middle school productions.

So last Sunday Ada and I attended Oliver! at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrance (near the mall). "Why are there so many grandmas and grandpas here?" asked Ada, as we entered the sparkling, Vegas-like lobby. Indeed, the matinee audience was at least three-quarters retirees, with the rest composed of families with elementary-aged children.

Within the theatre, we found plush seats, great sight lines and well-calibrated sound. And when the lights went down, we were captivated by a very solid, very professional production. Oliver!, as you might surmise, is based on the story of Oliver Twist. Even my five year old identified the parallels between this story of a poor young orphan from long ago who discovers his real family quite by accident and that of a certain red-haired orphan and her "Hard-Knock Life." While I'd never seen the musical before, I recognized songs like "Food Glorious Food" and "Consider Yourself."

Ada and I were both impressed by the kid actors. Oliver is played by a very talented 11 year old from Wisconsin, but the Artful Dodger and all the boys from the workhouse and Fagin's gang were great and ranged in age from 7 (maybe younger?) to 14.

In addition to all the young talent, this production of Oliver! is a family affair. The show is directed and choreographed by Berwyn resident Rachel Rockwell, whose son Jake Helm plays one of Fagan's orphans and whose mother Glory Kissel has the role of the grandfather's housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin. And that's not all: the director's husband is the sound designer and her son's godfather is an actor and associate director.

As much as we enjoyed it, Oliver! ticket prices start at $35 and no kids under 5 are permitted, so if you're looking for a specifically child-friendly, low-cost show, you're better off waiting for Suessical, which opens at Drury Lane on April 24 and features $12 tickets and $22 character brunch + show packages.