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Review: 'Oliver!' Glorious World-Class Production at Paper Mill Playhouse

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Oliver! the musical-live play

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As most New Jersey theater goers know, the Paper Mill Playhouse excels, like no other theater, in the production of big Broadway quality musicals. A marvelous, no..a spectacular example is now 'on stage' as director Mark S. Hoebee (also Producing Artistic Director) is closing out the 2013 portion of the 75th Anniversary Season with a world-class production of Lionel Bart's now classic Charles Dickens musical Oliver!* Bart's award winning book, music and lyrics are beautifully presented on the Playhouse stage via a cast of outstanding veteran Broadway singers and dancers, highly creative, ovation earning sets, gorgeous period costumes...simply, stagecraft at the highest level. Major credit for the success of Oliver!, in addition to Hoebee's direction, is the exciting original choreography of JoAnn M. Hunter and, oh yes, Lionel Bart's songs, many of which have become international favorites.

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The fun begins with the rousing overture from the excellent Paper Mill orchestra under the direction of Craig Barna and continues with Oliver and the boys of the workhouse receiving their evening meal and literally bursting into the showstopper "Food, Glorious, Food." The 'glorious' song and dance number ends with Oliver approaching Mr. Bumble, master of the workhouse, and delivering the classic line "Please sir, may I have some more."

Bart's score is considered the equal of such masterpieces as "My Fair Lady," "West Side Story," "Oklahoma" and "Show Boat." Besides "Food, Glorious, Food," the other showstoppers are the title song "Oliver," Oliver's solo "Where Is Love," Oliver and the Street Criers' lament "Who Will Buy?," Fagin and his gang's "Pick a Pocket or Two," Artful Dodger and the Gang's "I'll Do Anything," Fagin's solo "Reviewing the Situation," Artful Dodger, Oliver and the ensemble's joyous "Consider Yourself (One of the Family)" and the great torch song "As Long As He Needs Me" delivered in goose-bump style by Betsy Morgan as Nancy. She was last on the Paper Mill stage as Fantine in the magnificent 25th anniversary production of "Les Miserable."

David Garrison, from the television series Married…with Children, has the role of one of Dickens' most famous master villains, Fagin, notorious for recruiting children and training them as pickpockets, exchanging food and shelter for goods the children stole. Garrison, obviously enjoying the classic role, clearly controls the stage as he presents a humorous, memorable, Fagin. He is terrific in his solo “Reviewing the Situation." Another remarkable performance is delivered by a very talented young man with a fine voice, Tyler Moran, perfect in the title role of Oliver. The true villain, Bill Sikes, is played by Jose Llana in an appropriately sinister style, particularly in his solo "My Name" in the Act Two pub scene.

Ethan Haberfield is impressive as Fagin's star pupil, and Oliver's recruiter, the Artful Dodger, specially in the production numbers "Consider Yourself" and "I'll Do Anything." He's a talented young man who at the age of only 10 made his Broadway debut as Michael Banks in "Mary Poppins." Most recently, we saw him as Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre.

Other major cast members are: John Treacy Egan as Mr. Bumble (Tito in last season's ‘Lend Me a Tenor”); David Hess as Mr. Brownlow; Jessica Sheridan as Widow Corney; Barbara Marineau as Mrs Bedwin (special note: She played Nancy in the Paper Mill's 1976 production of “Oliver!”); Kristen Smith Davis as Bet; Michael DiLiberto as Mr. Sowerberry and Dr. Grimwig; Dierdre Friel as Mrs. Sowerberry and Old Sally, Juliane Godfrey as Charlotte; and Jeremy Morse as Noah Claypole.

The cast also includes an adult ensemble of 20 and 16 young boys. The boys, who are in the workhouse opening number, Fagin's gang and other street activity, auditioned from a pool of over 200 local boys. The ensemble members are: Adrian Arrieta, Kate Bailey, Casey Beidel, Monica Bradley, Stephen Mitchell Brown, Casey Erin Clark, Will Flamm, Kyle Garvin, Matthew Hooper, Devin Johnson, Mary Claire King, Hunter Kovacs, Jimmy Larkin, George Merrick, Sarah M. O'Connor, Patrick O'Neill, PJ Palmer, Jason Pintar, Jeff Sullivan, Bronwyn Tarboton, Joseph Torello and Joseph C. Townsend.

The Workhouse Boys include: Bobby Axelrod, Luke Berninger, Jake Cedar, James Freedson-Jackson, Chance Friedman, Lucas Imhoff, Jeffrey Kishinevskiy, Colton Maurer, NJ), Tyler Pelton, Jake Walsh , Arthur Wawrzyniak and twin brothers Lee and Ryan Rosenthal.

Director Hoebee's production staff includes: Craig Barna (Music Director);
Amanda Seymour (Costume Design); F. Mitchell Dana (Lighting Design); Randy Hansen (Sound Design); Leah J. Loukas (Hair & Wig Design); Timothy R. Mackabee (Set Coordination); Michael Rossmy (Fight Choreographer); Shane Ann Younts (Dialect Coach); Mark Morton (Original Scenery); and Andrea Cibelli Production Stage Manager.

Oliver! is extraordinary entertainment perfect for the entire family...it will play the Millburn, New Jersey theater through December 29, 2013.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio December 1, 2013

Oliver! will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday (check PaperMill.org for special holiday schedules) plus a special Christmas Eve matinee on Tuesday, December 24, 2013. Family-friendly performance schedule: Wednesday at 7 pm, Thursday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm, Friday at 7 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm.

Tickets range from $27 to $98. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, New Jersy, or online at www.PaperMill.org.

*Oliver! was nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical, and the 1968 film version won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

Oliver! at Paper Mill Playhouse photos by Jerry Dalia;
1- From left to right: Jessica Sheridan (Widow Corney), John Treacy Egan (Mr. Bumble) and Tyler Moran (Oliver).2- The Workhouse Boys of Oliver! with David Garrison (Fagin) and Tyler Moran (Oliver).

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