On Tuesday night, the audience at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center was wowed by a spectacular performance of the classic comedy, Oliver! Everything was right on key: the 19th-century London costumes, the amazing set that transformed before viewers’ eyes, the British accents, and of course, the singing.
Oliver! is a tale of a young orphan boy in London and his journeys to find a loving family despite the characters he meets along the way who seem to want the worst for him.
The acting was wonderful. The cast of 9 — 14-year-old children from all over the United States had British accents, danced and sang across the stage that would rival many adult Hollywood actors. According to the playbill, Ryan Tutton, who played Oliver, got his first acting job when he was only three weeks old. However, the unsung hero of the performance was Colin Bates, who played “the Artful Dodger.” This 14-year-old boy from Shrews-bury, Penn. was one of the most talented dancers of the show, doing everything from back flips to great leaps to round offs. Bates pulls off the Dodger’s leader-of-the pack attitude flawlessly.
Of the adult actors, Mark McCracken, who played Fagin, the leader of the thieves’ group, and Renata Renee Wilson who played Nancy, the mother-type to the thieves’ group, were the top two standout performances. Fagin provided most of the comedy for the show, even when Oliver was in the most hopeless of situations. Nancy added a degree of humanity to the group of thieves. One of the only women in the show, her character killed while trying to help Oliver reunite with a family. Her song, “I’d Do Anything,” motivated me to buy the sound track at intermission.
Oliver! left the audience wanting to come back again and again. If you have the chance to see this fabulous classic this weekend, I highly recommend going. This is one of the best plays I have ever seen in my life, and I have a few under my belt. Bottom line, see this play.
Oliver! is playing at the Carol Morsani Hall at the TPBAC through this Sunday. Tickets cost $30.50 – $66.50 and performances are at 7:30.