The classic Charles Dickens novel about a poor orphaned boy in 19th century London comes to life this week as Thunder Bay Theatre's final show of the summer season.
Based upon "Oliver Twist," the musical rendition known simply as "Oliver!" opens Wednesday for a three-week run. This British award winner by author and composer Lionel Bart first premiered in 1960, enjoyed a successful Broadway run in 1963 and was made into a musical film in 1968. More than 50 years later, the show continues its popularity the world over.
"The show is great," said Derek Spack, who is serving as director for the TBT production. "It's classical 'Oliver!' The kids are cute as a button and it's a great story."
According to TBT Artistic Director J.R. Rodriguez, the original novel by Dickens was characteristically gloomy, while the musical presents the same hopeless themes but with a measure of frivolity and redemption. He believes TBT patrons are in for a great evening of entertainment.
"The only thing missing is a dog," Rodriguez said. "You've got kids, great songs, funny characters and a villain. And you have an ending to the story that everyone wants."
The tale of young Oliver finds him existing in a workhouse under cruel conditions only to be kicked out for asking for more food. Sold to an undertaker, he then flees from his guardian and happens upon a motley group of street urchins, including a boy known as the Artful Dodger. Dodger and crew take Oliver in under the watchful eye of Fagin, a local thief and leader to the band of boys who turn out to be pickpockets.
Thunder Bay Theatre
7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Box office: 354-2267
Oliver, while maintaining his innocence, works the streets with Dodger. Ultimately, he is caught and accused of stealing a handkerchief. Acquitted of the crime he is taken to live with Mr. Brownlow, a kindhearted man of wealth and status whose handkerchief was the one stolen.
Fagin, who fears Oliver may reveal his gang, is forced to confess the ordeal to Bill Sykes, a feared criminal. Fagin, Sykes and Nancy, with her undying love for Sykes, concoct a plan to get Oliver back resulting in an ending befitting each individual.
Cast in the lead adult roles are Rodriguez as Fagin, Erik Johnson as Sykes and Kendra McInerney as Nancy.
Rodriguez, always popular with audiences, last appeared in a major role as Daddy Warbucks in "Annie." He also played Sweeney Todd in the musical thriller, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon of Bourbon Street," and as Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
Johnson charmed audiences with his portrayal of Nick Arnstein in this summer's "Funny Girl."
Recent past roles for McInerney, a member of the TBT core company for several seasons, include Carnelle Scott in "The Miss Firecracker Contest," Mimsey in "Funny Girl" and Traci Drayton in "Spreading it Around." She also previously appeared as one of the young pickpockets when the theatre last produced the show in 2003.
"This is the first time I've ever done a show twice," McInerney said. "It's been fun to revisit a show I already know and to have a handle on it. I love the part of Nancy. She's a down to earth, beautiful, relatable soul."
The plum part of Oliver went to Ely Irving, who previously appeared in "Willy Wonka" and "101 Dalmations." Molly Stricker, another young seasoned performer, stars as the Artful Dodger. Stricker has appeared on the TBT stage as the title character of Annie in "Annie" and in "Willy Wonka."
Other local favorites performing in the show include David Usher as Mr. Bumble, Terry Carlson as Mrs. Sowerberry and Old Sally, Tom Carney as Mr. Sowerberry and Bruce Michaud as Mr. Brownlow. TBT company member Nickie Hilton, who directed the middle show of the summer season, "The Miss Firecracker Contest," appears as Mrs. Bedwin and the Old Lady.
Fagin's Boys include youngsters Joshua Meier, Dylan Goike, Riley McGuire, Malley McGuire, Chloe Brothers, Swasti Shree and Alex Langerfeld.
Rounding out the cast are Travis Atkinson as Dr. Grimwig, Zach Clement as Noah Claypole, Scott Edgar as the Chairman, Mandee Henkel as Charlotte, Charles Bates as Fineus, Karisa Meier as Bet and JoLee Greer as Widow Corney.
TBT company members Chelsea Prettyman and John Martin worked behind the scenes on costumes and as stage manager.
Run dates for "Oliver!" are Aug. 3-21 with show times at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the TBT box office at 354-2267.