Audiences were clearly delighted at seeing the return of "Oliver" Saturday evening in downtown Minneapolis.
The show opened Saturday evening at the Pantages Theatre as the third collaboration between Theater Latté Da and the Hennepin Trust Company as part of the Broadway Re-imagined series.
The re-imagined theme?
In his director's note, Peter Rothstein discussed the relevancy of "Oliver Twist," stating its messages of social injustice and economic disparity are themes people are very familiar with today.
Using steampunk, a science fiction subgenre that places industrial imagery against a Victorian backdrop, served as a visual representation of the juxtaposition within society.
The gritty, mechanical costumes worn on characters living during a refined era gives audiences a tangible way to look at the social injustice found in Dickens' London – a society that attempts to cover up its class disparities through maintaining "proper" English manners and ignoring the ever visible poverty.
Theater Latté Da incorporated this steampunk theme into the set and costumes for the show.
The set was scaled back in terms of industrial-ness, using just two levels of scaffolding. This also provided the company the levels it needed to create depth on an otherwise small stage. (This came in very handy during chase scenes that otherwise would have fallen very flat.)
The costuming was also rather reserved, incorporating only some elements of the steampunk culture in costumes of a few characters.
For example, the Artful Dodger wore a top hat and bright red coat with long tails paired with bright yellow high-waist pants, and Fagin donned round glasses with thigh-high boots decorated with big buckles. Yet, the orphans simply wore rags and Mr. Brownlow, Oliver's wealthy grandfather, dressed in a three-piece suit.
Keeping the steampunk touches simple helped keep the show intact. The choices were very deliberate so to once again bring attention to the vast differences between the two worlds without taking you out of the time Oliver was set in.
The show itself was enjoyable, with the best numbers being those involving the Fagin clan.
Nate Turcotte's Oliver was every bit naïve as you want Oliver to be, and he mostly held his own among a strong cast of characters.
Turcotte, a sixth grader from Minnetonka Middle School, especially did an artful job of handling a microphone issue and cough during "Where Is Love."
However, Turcotte's Oliver was lost during some of the moments with the Fagin boys as others, like Alec Fisher (Dodger) and Alejandro Vega (Fagin boy) stole the attention.
Fisher (Dodger) was incredibly fun to watch. He wrote in his bio that Dodger was one of his favorite characters in the musical, and it showed. He was energetic, colorful, and flamboyant, and did a great job introducing the audience to the Fagin clan during "Consider Yourself."
Fagin, played by Bradley Greenwald, was another stand-out of the show. Greenwald played the deliciously greedy thief so well you found yourself believing at times he really wanted the best for the boys.
"You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" was definitely an audience favorite as Greenwald sprinkled magic tricks throughout the number.
But perhaps one of the biggest stars of the evening was the smallest actor, Vega. Vega may not have had any lines, solos or even a name, but he stole the show a number of times by playing up thieving antics and mimicking Fagin behind his back. And truly embodied the phrase, "There are no small parts, only small actors."
This cast of Fagin boys added the right color and comic relief to an otherwise dark tale about the search for love and belonging.
"Oliver" is showing now through March 1 at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Tickets range from $24 to $49. For more information, visit the Hennepin Theatre Trust online.
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