NC Theatre is keeping kids busy this summer by putting the best and the brightest young performers, from the Triangle area and beyond, center stage in their current production of Oliver! The show, based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, follows young orphan Oliver on a journey from the workhouse to a life of luxury.
There were around 30 children in the cast, an impressive feat in and of itself. These children were the very image of professionalism and dedication. The opening number, “Food, Glorious Food” showcased these child actors as they completely filled the stage, with some interesting elements, like using spoons and bowls as percussion in the song.
Playing the title role, Sam Poon absolutely shone. He completely nailed the iconic ballad “Where is Love?” with a voice so strong and confident, especially for someone so young. Remember his name, because you’ll soon be seeing it in lights. He outshone the adults and reminded the audience why there’s an exclamation mark in the show’s title.
Among the creative elements of the show, I found Mark Morton’s scenery design, originally done for the Pittsburgh CLO, to be by far the strongest. The set transitioned smoothly and was able to accurately portray many locations without sacrificing any details. The choreography was weak, but understandably so, with such a large cast. Choreographing and blocking for such a large cast can’t be an easy feat, and was generally appropriate, despite over-utilization of running or skipping in a large circle.
While I quite enjoyed the primary plot of Oliver finding a family, I had some trouble following the sub-plots and figuring out who some of the characters were. In particular, the plotline of Nancy and Bill was a bit muddled, which was unfortunate because I found Heather Patterson King (who plays Nancy) to be one of the finest singers I’ve ever seen onstage in the Triangle. Having never seen the show before and having only pretended to read the book in high school, I was left racking my brain for details from an episode of Wishbone I saw 18 years ago to fill in some of the obscured plot points. Despite a few confusing bits, the show as a whole worked fine since it was carried by such a strong major plot.
Please bear in mind that just because there are kids in a show doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the youngest among us. Kids who can sit still for long periods of time and who have discussed some of the themes beforehand, however, will certainly enjoy Oliver!.
Oliver! runs through July 22. For tickets and more information, visit www.nctheatre.com.