WAUKESHA - The musical
version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel “Oliver Twist” first hit the
Broadway stage in 1963. Fifty years later, it is still entertaining audiences
with its winsome story and its memorable music.
The University of
Wisconsin-Waukesha has taken on the task of staging it for our viewing pleasure
and has succeeded in creating a quality production under the auspices of Steve
Decker’s direction and the combined talents of students and community players.
The story involves a poor
orphan who is tossed about from place to place and in the process affects many
others’ lives. Dickens was always an advocate for the plight of the poor, and
this theme is evident throughout the play. We see people trying to survive in an
unjust world and some resorting to crime to do it. We also see redemption and
love and forgiveness transcend evil. Even Fagin, a symbol of greed and
manipulation, changes after “Reviewing the Situation.”
The characters are well-
drawn. Oliver stands out as the gutsy child who dares to question the system. We
sense that he will overcome all odds because he is so courageous and lovable.
Jonathan LaMack is well-cast
as Oliver. He is strong in both his acting and singing skills and touches our
hearts when he sings the poignant “Where is Love.”
Another standout is
Madeleine Kuenn as the Artful Dodger. Her spunk is mesmerizing. Ryan Cappleman
is a striking presence in his role as Fagin. He captures the ambiguity of
Fagin’s greed and bigheartedness. Occasionally, his words elude us, but he
more than compensates for any flaws in his delivery by his imposing disposition.
And what a singing voice!
Bill Sykes, as played by
Joey Woolfolk, is so despicable that it stretches our credulity when Nancy, so
beautifully played by Morgen Clary, loves and supports him. But we’ve all
known women of her ilk who need to be needed more than truly loved and
respected. At least her loyalties shift near the end of the story, despite the
price she has to pay for her choice. Clary delivers the show’s signature song,
“As Long As He Needs Me” very movingly.
Overall, the show is
well-designed and costumed (Steve and Candace Decker), beautifully choreographed
(Ryan Cappleman), and musically harmonious (Nancy and Jennifer Van Brunt). Scene
changes are well- organized and smoothly accomplished so the story keeps
Besides the two songs
mentioned above, several others deserve mention. “Who Will Buy” was
especially beautifully rendered. “Consider Yourself” and “I’d Do
Anything” were my personal favorite ensemble numbers. Many of the actors play
multiple roles and do so with apparent ease.
The energy of the many young
actors added a lot to the show’s overall success, and the live band, conducted
by Craig Hurst, made its contribution. Considering the huge cast of actors,
musicians and tech crew, Decker deserves commendation for the stunning and
“Oliver!” is staged at
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on
the UW-Waukesha campus, 1500 N. University Drive. Tickets can be purchased at