Consider yourself a fan of “Oliver!”

April 23, 2024, 1:18 p.m. | By Josey Merolli | 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Blair Theatre presents another spectacular spring musical

From the opening notes of the overture to the final reprise, the cast and crew of “Oliver!” worked tirelessly to deliver a heartfelt product to their audience of Blazers and families. Opening with the song “Food, Glorious Food,” viewers were immediately transported to the dirty streets of Victorian London. 

The musical follows the young orphan Oliver Twist (Janaki Katz/Abi Torres) as he does his best to survive on his own. While on his journey, he meets drunken undertakers (Ben Kirby/Jamie Lozada McBride), mischievous pickpockets, and dangerous housebreakers. After some misbehavior at the undertaker’s place where he works, he runs away and is taken in by Fagin (Navek Leonard/Ryan McGaskey), the boss of a gang of child pickpockets. There he meets the kindly Nancy (Margot Buehler/Elia Silbey) as well as learns of her infamous boyfriend, Bill Sykes (John Gregor Ayala/JP Hastings). While on his first pickpocketing job, he’s caught by the police and sent to the goodhearted Mrs. Brownlow’s (Arabella O’Neale/Kate Gray) home to reform. When Bill Sykes learns of this, however, he worries that Oliver told the cops about Fagin and his illegal operations. Throughout the second act, conflict between Oliver and the criminals is constant.

There were so many great moments between actors in the production. Oliver is first introduced to Fagin’s gang by another young boy who calls himself The Artful Dodger (Ari Joshi/Lilia Lash). In the introductory track “Consider Yourself,” cute choreography and moments between Oliver and his new friend fleshed out the characters. After last year’s “Into the Woods,” the reintroduction of a full ensemble made these moments feel even bigger, as the stage filled up with other members of Fagin’s gang, surrounding Oliver and treating him like family. 

The orphans sing to Fagin in Blair Theatre's "Oliver!" Photo courtesy of Josephine Panner.

In an interlude, actors dashed across the stage, doing acrobatics in colorful costumes, and two students on unicycles delighted the audience as they showed off their impressive balancing skills. 

Nancy’s voice soared in her songs, and the actors were able to demonstrate their range with the variety of songs they performed. From the rousing chants of “Oom-Pah-Pah” to effortlessly executing the tragic ballad “As Long as He Needs Me,” these songs were a highlight. Her boyfriend, Bill Sykes, also had a solo song of his own, the menacing “My Name.” The actors created an air of dangerous mystery to shroud the character, creating a formidable villain.

That was one of Ayala’s favorite moments in the production, as there were some quick changes made to the song late in the rehearsals that he still nailed. “We made some changes to [the song] last minute, and I was so scared if I was going to nail it or not, but it paid off,” Ayala said. 

Fagin had a lot of great moments as well, and his solo “Reviewing the Situation” stood out. As he paced onstage, his coat dragging on the floor, his comedic and exaggerated miming and motioning as he shared his unattainable daydreams of success had the entire audience chuckling. 

The production wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Blair’s fabulous stage crew, whose painstaking attention to detail brought London to life. The beautiful backdrop of stone buildings instantly transported the audience to another time, and their quick transitions between scenes kept the audience engaged. No prop was left untouched, and authenticity was important. Even the bowls of gruel the orphans ate at the beginning of the production were painted by crew member Cameron DeRoche. “The bowls of gruel, I painted those. I worked really hard, and I made them look really dirty. Definitely the bowls [were my favorite project],” DeRohe said. 

Blair’s talented pit orchestra played a crucial role in the production, backing the actors as well as taking center stage in several instrumental moments. They set the tone for the production and provided the score for some of its most intense moments. 

“Oliver!” will hold a lot of memories for students. As a graduating senior, Ayala reminisced on his time as an actor. “I’m definitely going to miss these people, because doing Blair Theatre helped me become who I am today. I’m so excited for other people to reach that point of development in the future, and I hope that more people find that passion in theater at Blair,” Ayala said. 

Once again, Blair Theatre’s spring musical was a success, and this moment means a lot to many Blazers, who put on a show the audience didn’t want to end. 

“Oliver!” has three more performances: Thursday, April 25, 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 26, and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 27.

Last updated: April 23, 2024, 1:21 p.m.

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