Sunday, June 28, 2015

theatre review - BIG FISH - Actor's Youth Theatre - June 24

Miles Johnson, India Rose Chudnow and Jonah Carlson
Photo: Lisa Webb / Southwest Shots Photography
Click here to read my complete review (highlights below) at

"Turning a movie into a Broadway musical doesn't always meet with success. One recent show that didn't fare well in its musical transfer was Big Fish...the whimsical musical follows the story of traveling salesman Edward Bloom and brings to life the tall tales he'd often tell his son. It's a shame that the show only managed a three month run in New York, as the score by Andrew Lippa has many memorable tunes and John August's book paints some notable characters. With an extremely talented cast of teenagers who are able to successfully portray both the emotional and comical moments in the story, The Actor's Youth Theatre's Arizona-premiere production proves that a show that might have flopped on Broadway can be a success in regional theatres....The AYT cast is just about perfect, with Jonah Carlson excellent as Edward. Instilling the part with an assured take on a matter of fact "everyman," Carlson not only has you believing in Edward's seemingly imaginary tales but makes you care for him as well. His acting and singing abilities are top notch. As Will, Miles Johnson allows us to understand why he is agitated and has just about had enough of his father's tales, without making the frustration and skepticism appear as anger. This is important to make us care for him, which we do. ...Sidne Phillips is stunning as Edward's wife Sandra. She clearly projects Sandra's love for her husband and son...Phillips is also a smashing dancer and singer. Her delivery of "I Don't Need a House" is beautiful...Directors Julie Clement and Marcus Ellsworth do an exceptional job ensuring that the whimsy of the piece doesn't overpower the serious moments, but also let plenty of humor come naturally from the actors and staging. They paint some memorable moments in their lively staging and also make effective use of the center aisle in the theatre for a few key entrances and exits. Choreography from the trio of Ellsworth, Kristen Malarkey, and Corinne Mann is lively and original, including a superb "Little Lamb from Alabama" dance. ...While the main themes of the musical—love your family and live life to its fullest—may not be new, and the second act does bog down a bit, the important message of realizing that every person you meet is unique and that everyone can be the hero of their own story is something all of us could take to heart. On Broadway, Big Fish was a big musical, with large set pieces and elaborate special effects. Perhaps Actor's Youth Theatre's small budget production, which doesn't allow the spectacle to overtake the story, is how this musical needs to be seen. It lets the imagination and messages of Edward Bloom spring beautifully to life. The success of this production and the fact that the company's next show, Bonnie and Clyde, is another Broadway flop musical shows they aren't afraid to take challenges, not just keep producing the same family friendly shows over and over again, and proves why AYT is one of the best youth theatres in the Valley."

Monday, June 22, 2015

theatre review - MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT - Paradise Valley Community College - June 19

the cast of Spamalot
Photo by Tiffany Marie Bolock
Click here to read my complete review (highlights below) at

"Written by the zany Monty Python comedy team...the hit 1975 movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail humorously told of King Arthur's quest for the Holy Grail. Almost 30 years after the film premiered, Idle created a musical version of the movie with John Du Prez called Spamalot. ...Paradise Valley Community College just opened their production of this musical comedy and their terrific cast, clear direction, and fine creative elements culminate in a charming and funny production....The plot is fairly basic. King Arthur forms the Knights of the Round Table and with Lancelot, Galahad, Robin and his trusty knave Patsy along for the ride, plus some assistance from the mysterious Lady of the Lake, they go on the search for the Holy Grail. ...The PVCC cast is definitely game for the challenge they have before them, with lots of them playing multiple parts and, under the solid guidance of director Andrea Robertson, ensuring the comic bits land effectively. At just 21, Philip Amerine may be on the young side to play the hapless leader King Arthur, but his make-up and acting choices make him appear much older and he is appropriately stoic and regal in the part...Brenda Goodenberger as the Lady in the Lake...has a lovely, commanding and beautiful voice that has a wide, versatile range and is full of power. Idle and Du Prez wrote several very good songs for the character...and Goodenberger knocks them all out of the park...Christian Boden is having a blast as Patsy...His perfectly agitated expressions and silly faces show Patsy's frustration with his place as Arthur's servant. But he also instills Patsy with a huge dose of warmth that effectively demonstrates his devotion to his beloved King. It is a delightfully silly performance. The men who play Arthur's three main knights are all gifted comics and are having a blast playing these parts. Tyler Lewis is a gem as the self-absorbed, vain and narcissistic Galahad. Lewis has great comic timing and a fantastic voice as well. His duet with Goodenberger of "The Song that Goes Like This" is a showstopper. Sky Donovan is hilarious as the not exactly brave Robin, with perfectly clear diction and a rousing delivery of his big solo "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." Sixteen-year-old Scott Snedden is charming as the somewhat sexually confused Lancelot; his disco coming out moment is a highlight. All of the supporting parts have well-executed comedic timing. The rest of the ensemble does very well with the comic parts and the zany songs, and they chew every possible piece of scenery they can find along the way....Robertson makes the series of vignettes seem cohesive and keeps the show moving along at a fast pace...Ken Goodenberger's musical direction achieves pleasant harmonies from the large cast and his conducting skills are exceptional, achieving a sensational sound from the fourteen-piece orchestra....Spoof and satire run rampant in this show and the cast knows how to play both lowbrow and highbrow humor just fine. With a spirited cast, simple yet effective creative touches and proficient comical direction, PVCC's Spamalot amounts to silly fun."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

theatre review - RUMORS - Desert Stages Theatre - June 14

the cast of Rumors
photo credit: Wade Moran
Click here to read my complete review (highlights below) at

"From The Odd Couple to Brighton Beach Memoirs, Neil Simon has written many classic comedies, but his 1988 Rumors was his first attempt at writing a comedy modeled after a traditional farce. The story of four wealthy couples caught up in chaos and confusion has an abundance of humor, and Desert Stages' production makes for a fun-filled time with a winning cast and fast-paced direction....
It's the 10th wedding anniversary of wealthy Charlie Brock...and his wife Myra. They've invited some of their well to do friends over to celebrate, but there is one small problem: it seems someone has shot Charlie in the head. Fortunately, the bullet only graced his earlobe and he has fallen asleep in his upstairs bedroom after taking some Valium. But was it an attempted suicide or a botched murder? And why have Myra and all of the kitchen staff disappeared? ...Co-directors Virginia Olivieri and Gary Zaro have cast a good group of actors that form a well-oiled ensemble. While not everyone is as gifted in creating a fully fleshed out character...they all end up creating fairly believable characters and do a fine job of delivering the jokes with ease in this virtually nonstop laugh fest....The best of the bunch is the crackerjack team of Tim Fiscus and Amy Garland who play Lenny, Charlie's accountant, and his wife Claire. Fiscus whips himself up into a fever pitch, throwing himself into the numerous physical comedy moments that elicit plenty of laughs. Garland's comical line delivery combined with her sarcastic, agitated looks and gestures are priceless. They form a very realistic and believable couple, as do Wade Moran and Heidi Carpenter as Ken and Chris, the first couple to arrive. Moran does a great job making Ken an energetic, agitated, and expressive mess, and is a hoot when he partially loses his hearing. Carpenter is a gem as the confused wife who can't quite remember who she has told the truth to and who she hasn't. Carpenter and Garland also make you believe they've been good friends for a very long time....Olivieri and Zaro have done a very good job of ensuring that the pacing never lags, that their actors deliver the jokes with ease, and that the requisite timing of the farce, with the entrances and exits of the cast members through the synchronized opening and closing of the five doors on stage, are perfectly timed....While Rumors may have been Simon's first attempt at writing a farce, the end result of nonstop hijinks, crazy characters, wild situations, and plenty of laughter shows how gifted a comedy writer he is. DST's production is a lot of fun, with solid direction, effective creative touches and a good cast that includes an exceptional comedic performance by Tim Fiscus and effective work by Amy Garland, Wade Moran and Heidi Carpenter."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

theatre review - ANGELS IN AMERICA: PERESTROIKA - Nearly Naked Theatre - June 13

Drew Swaine and Raheem De'Angelo
Photo: Laura Durant / Nearly Naked Theatre
Click here to read my complete review (highlights below) at

"Perestroika, the second part of Tony Kushner's two-part play Angels in America, is about hope, change, compassion, and making a leap into the unknown. Set in the mid to late 1980s, Kushner's Tony winning play follows the characters he so brilliantly created in the first part, Millennium Approaches, as they navigate their way through the fallout of the AIDS epidemic and the changing moral, political, and social views of that decade. While Perestroika is more complex than Millennium Approaches it also has less plot and character development and ends up somewhat overstuffed with an excessive amount of interwoven theories, including one that relates all of our pain to God's abandonment, that don't always make sense. However, even with the play's shortcomings and a few small quibbles, Nearly Naked Theatre's decision to perform both parts of Angels in repertory culminates in a rich theatrical experience....Director Damon Dering's cast has grown in their roles since their debut of Millennium last week. As Prior, Drew Swaine is simply stellar in the part...The sense of compassion and honesty that KatiBelle Collins brings to Hannah is very moving. Mike Largent allows us to see the sadness and passion that Louis feels, and the scene in which he and Collins, as Ethel Rosenberg, deliver the Kaddish for Cohn is deeply touching....Vickie Hall effectively displays the clarity that Harper encounters through her Valium-induced haze...Raheem De'Angelo's instills Belize with a strength and dignity...Pat Russel's Cohn is less nasty than before, which makes sense as he is close to death...One of my major complaints with Perestroika is that Kushner doesn't quite seem to know what to do with Joe, which means that Thomas Hicks has less of a character arc to play than the rest of the characters, though he still manages to show us the small changes that Joe makes. Brandi Bigley makes for a forceful Angel as well as a caring and matter of fact nurse....Dering does a good job in keeping his actors focused, even with the multiple characters some play, and keeps the over three hour play moving along, but even he can't do much to help with a few of Kushner's scenes that seem unnecessary or overly long. ...While Perestroika isn't quite as good a play as the first part, it concludes with a rewarding ending with most of the characters experiencing a feeling of self-awareness as well as forgiveness. While seeing Angels in America today doesn't have quite the emotional impact it did back when it first premiered in the early 1990s, Nearly Naked Theatre's production is admirable, with a good cast, clear direction, and fine creative elements. At the very end of Perestroika, Prior speaks to the audience and delivers a message of hope, repeating the statement the Angel said to him: "the great work begins." Even though it's been over 20 years since I first heard that call to action, it remains as moving today as it did then."

Monday, June 15, 2015

concert review - ALFIE BOE with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra - June 5, 2015

"Who knew that inside the English tenor opera singer turned musical theatre recording artist, and PBS pledge drive star Alfie Boe was a comedian and budding rocker? ... Boe was in town recently for a concert performance with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and while, at first, he may not have been a household name to everyone in the audience, the combination of his infectious rapport with humorous patter, a wide range of song styles that included classic rock tunes, and his astounding vocal abilities made his name one that no one who saw him will soon forget.

The concert was split into two equally perfect halves, with the first act focusing on musical theatre and the second showing off Boe's and the orchestra's abilities to perform opera and rock songs. Boe was actually a replacement for an ailing Colm Wilkinson who had originally rescheduled his concerts only to then have to cancel them. (Having Boe sub for Wilkinson made sense, since Wilkinson originated the part of Valjean in Les Misérables.)

The concert started off with a superb medley of songs from that musical, showing off the sublime skills of the orchestra as they played the sweeping motifs from the well-known score, then Boe delivered two back to back powerhouse songs from the show. "Who Am I?" is a song that Boe has sung many times and he perfectly got across the meaning of the lyrics and hit the passionate notes required. "Bring Him Home" is probably the one song that people have heard Boe sing more than any other, and hearing him sing the song live was an emotional experience that brought the audience to its feet....On "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime, his voice fit perfectly with the lyrics. It was nice that the arrangement for this song was very close to the original Broadway one, yet the fullness of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra provided a richness that you'd never hear in a production of this show with a much smaller group of musicians...The Symphony delivered a romantic "Carousel Waltz" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that was full of nuance and was followed by Boe singing a stirring version of that show's "You'll Never Walk Alone." ...Act two contained both classical and rock songs, including several traditional Italian and Spanish folk songs that featured some impeccable violin solos by Magdalena Martinic-Jercic. The orchestra also delivered superb suites from two operas, Carmen and Cavalleria Rusticana. Three rock songs ended the act with Boe belting out powerhouse versions of two Pete Townshend songs from the classic Who rock opera Quadrophenia, "I'm One" and "Love Reign O'er," which he also performs on a recording ("Classic Quadrophenia") that was just released this week. Snow Patrol's "Run" was the final number with Boe's voice blending beautifully with the superb arrangement of this pop hit. Boe came back and delivered a stunning a capella version of "Danny Boy" as his encore, which ended the evening on a perfect note.

Conductor David Hattner, who was making his first appearance with the Symphony, did a exceptional job of conducting the wide range of musical styles and had a touching connection with both Boe and the orchestra. The sound at Symphony Hall is so superb that you can clearly hear not only the solo moments but also the contribution that each instrument makes to the whole...." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

theatre review - INTO THE WOODS - Valley Youth Theatre - June 12, 2015

Carly Copp, Michael Schulz, and Ally Lansdowne
Photo courtesy
"Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods is one of the cleverest musicals ever written, as well as one of the most difficult to pull off successfully....Valley Youth Theatre just opened a solid production of the musical, and the fact that the cast is composed of all teenagers shows just how stellar of an achievement that is.  Sondheim's score, which includes some of his most intricate and humorous rhyme schemes, and Lapine's book come together effortlessly in a show that has just as many comical moments as it does reflective ones. The two have seamlessly woven together familiar fairy tales that we all grew up with into a musical where the stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel all interconnect with each other....The large ensemble cast is just about perfect. Michael Schulz make a charming Baker, with a sensible delivery of his lines and a lovely voice. His solo "No More" is especially touching. As his wife, Ally Lansdowne has a warm, exceptional voice and manages to bring plenty of spark to her comic lines but shows the conflicted side of her character as well. Tatum Dial makes a sweet yet sensible Cinderella, delivering a clear as a bell version of her solo song "On the Steps of the Palace."...As the Witch, Carly Copp brings the right blend of menace and comedy. She appears appropriately agitated at the humans she has to deal with and also looks quite stunning once her character experiences a transformation. Sam Primack makes for a stellar Jack. He brings a keen sense of exuberance to the part and delivers every one of his lines with the right level of care and understanding to ensure the comic ones pop and the serious ones have meaning. His excellent voice delivers an exceptional "Giants in the Sky." Alex Kirby is perfectly sweet and sassy as Little Red Riding Hood, yet also displays hints of grown-up feelings and understanding once she encounters the Wolf....Producing Artistic Director Bobb Cooper delivers clear direction of this fast-paced musical. He also ensures that his cast doesn't simply copy the recent film character portrayals or the performances of the original Broadway cast, both of which are easily available on video, instead offering some nice original performances of their own. Sondheim's score has many overlapping and intricate parts and Cooper and the cast manage their way through the score without a single hiccup, which is a huge achievement. None of the fast-paced songs are slowed down, something a less accomplished cast might resort to doing, which allows for a swift telling of the story. ...While the set is a rental from 3D Theatricals...,Tom Buderwitz's design is spectacular and shows that sometimes renting an existing set from another company, instead of building one yourself, can provide excellent results. The combination of the impressive set with the colorful and exceptional costumes from Karol Cooper, remarkable lighting from Mike Eddy, and Almir Lejlic's clear sound design make this production one that any professional theatre in town would be proud to present....With some of Sondheim's brightest gems, including the ballads "No One is Alone," and "Children Will Listen," Into the Woods is a show that also has important lessons and messages underneath the comical exterior. Even with a cast of teenagers, the Valley Youth Theatre production is able to get those messages across. With just a very few shortcomings, the combination of a very good cast, clear direction, and impressive sets, costumes, lighting and sound, make this Into the Woods an enchanting production of a most creative and ingenious musical." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

theatre review - DOUBT - Mesa Encore Theatre - June 7, 2015

Shari Watts and Anne-Lise Koyabe
photo: Pam Pershing

"John Patrick Shanley's 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt has...superb characters with crackerjack dialogue and...every element necessary to deliver a hit drama, especially if your cast is up to the challenges of the script, which is just about perfect. Mesa Encore Theatre's production succeeds on all counts....This cautionary tale about the impact of gossip...shows two sides to a story set in 1964 at a parochial school in the Bronx..When head principal Sister Aloysius learns from novice Sister James that the charismatic Father Flynn has had private meetings and conversations with a young student named Donald Miller, she is convinced that he is molesting Donald. Yet Flynn claims he has done nothing wrong and is only protecting the boy, as Miller is the sole African-American student at the school and is isolated due to his race...Shanley's script will most likely have you not only changing your mind more than once during the show, but also discussing and debating it on your ride home as well....Mesa Encore Theatre has found an exceptionally gifted cast to play the four parts in the play, led by Shari Watts as Sister Aloysius...shows us how Aloysius' firm, steadfast beliefs are possibly behind not only her stilted view of the world but also her unrelenting determination to take Flynn down, even if she has no actual proof of her accusations. But what if she is right? Watts perfectly shows us how Aloysius is trying to protect the children while also making us realize that perhaps she is really just trying to protect her own beliefs in the Catholic religion. This is the fourth show I've seen Watts in over the past 18 months and she never fails to portray the realism behind the character. Her Aloysius is perfect....Marshall Glass' charisma, good looks and measured, easy delivery of Flynn's lines allows us, at first, to side with him. ..Glass' ability to win us over, numerous times throughout the play, works perfectly in how Shanley has crafted his play as a battle, with the audience constantly switching from side to side. Like Watts, Glass is delivering an excellent performance....In the smaller role of Sister James, Jamie Hendricks has the appropriate mousy disposition of the young nun, who is just trying to do what's right for her students...As Mrs. Muller, Anne-Lise Koyabe is delivering a heartbreaking take on this troubled mother....Kent Burnham has directed a production that will have you pondering the ideas of truth and consequences. He has a solid understanding of the material and elicits not only excellent performances from his cast but also an overall winning production. ..."What do you do when you are not sure?" is a question that Flynn poses in his first sermon in the play. It is something we can all take as a lesson when considering a subject that isn't cut and dried, with an answer that is beyond the shadow of a doubt. Mesa Encore Theatre's Doubt smolders, and Shanley's philosophical battle of the wills is not to be missed." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

theatre review - ANGELS IN AMERICA: MILLENNIUM APPROACHES - Nearly Naked Theatre - June 6, 2015

Drew Swaine
Photo: Laura Durant
"Arguably the most impressive new American play of the past twenty five years, Tony Kushner's two part-opus Angels in America won armfuls of awards, including two Tonys for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Kushner's play focuses on the AIDS epidemic...and is full of nuanced and layered, yet seriously flawed characters who allow us to see both the hope and hypocrisy that exists in the world...that requires a small cast able to each pull off multiple parts with assured devotion along with firm, clear direction to let the piece soar, and Damon Dering's Nearly Naked Theatre has taken on that task and succeeded... Dering has managed to achieve an intimate and moving production of this masterpiece....Dealing with stress, strain and the realities of life, and set across a wide range of topics that touch upon religion and politics, Kushner has crafted an interconnected story of two couples in turmoil, the Mormon husband and wife Joe and Harper and the gay couple Louis and Prior. With the subtitle of "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," the play shows the impact of HIV as well as the hypocrisy of the conservative Republicans during the AIDS crisis, via a fictionalized version of the real life, closeted, and ultra-Republican lawyer Roy Cohn, a Joseph McCarthy protégé who ends up contracting HIV and having some connection to the two couples. While it is a long play, it is never boring, and Kushner's characters are fully fleshed out and realistic with plenty of warts, yet they also exhibit many traits that allow us to root for them. Kushner's dialogue crackles and he knows how to write great scenes...that explode with passion and fireworks....Dering has a clear sense in his direction, managing to get solid portrayals from the entire cast. He also has a firm grasp on how the exceptional, mystical moments of the play build out of the ordinary. ...Drew Swaine embodies Prior, the protagonist of the piece, with a strong sense of pride, commitment, and conviction, but also exhibits a soulful vulnerability underneath.Vickie Hall perfectly captures the absolute mess of a woman that Harper is but with a clear portrayal on how fragile she is as well. Mike Largent has a good grasp on Louis..yet he could portray a touch more of the emotional mess that Louis should be and the guilt he feels for leaving Prior. We see the longing he has...but don't quite get the pain he should feel as well. Thomas Hicks is quiet and subdued, which works well for the confused and questioning Joe...As Cohn, Pat Russel isn't quite as biting, malicious, and terrifying as Ron Liebman and F. Murray Abraham, who played the part on Broadway, or even Al Pacino, who appeared in the HBO version. Instead he comes across more as a slimy, quiet, manipulating individual who has sudden outbursts of rage. But it manages to work, for the most part...KatiBelle Collins is superb in several smaller parts, some of which are male roles...Brandi Bigley also plays several parts, all with skill...As Belize,...Raheem De'Angelo infuses the character...with an all knowing power...The small Hormel Theatre stage...allows a heightened sense of intimacy in how Dering stages most of the action just a few feet from the front row of the audience...though the staging of the Angel's arrival is a bit of a letdown and doesn't quite have the impact it should....It's impossible to do justice in a few paragraphs to this play's significance and how it brought the AIDS crisis to the forefront of the arts world, even more so than plays like The Normal Heart did before. It also continued the importance of plays centered on gay characters. If you've seen the play before, you will find much to like and admire in Nearly Naked Theatre's production. If you've never seen this show before, you owe it to yourself to experience it, and Dering is presenting a solid production of Kushner's opus. Also, when I first saw Angels on Broadway back in 1993, Kushner was still writing Part II so we had to wait almost six months before the second part opened to find out how the intricate and mesmerizing story ends. Fortunately for theatregoers in Phoenix, you only have to wait a few days." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

concert review - OLIVER! in concert - Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix Theatre - May 29, 2015

"Phoenix Theatre and Phoenix Symphony Orchestra recently came together for another musical theatre collaboration. This time the selection was Oliver! and hearing Lionel Bart's score, with so many well-known songs, played by the huge, skilled orchestra and sung by a gifted cast, was simply glorious....The combination of Phoenix Theatre's Artistic Director Michael Barnard's skilled direction and (Tito) Muñoz's crisp conducting resulted in a touching production of this classic musical and was a perfect way to close out Muñoz's inaugural season with the Symphony....The concert included the majority of the Tony winning score, with the exclusion of just one minor song, and the wonderful performances of D. Scott Withers and Yolanda London. Withers was Fagin and London portrayed Nancy... hearing London's glorious and powerful voice wrapped around the music and lyrics of "As Long As He Needs Me," "I'd Do Anything," and "It's a Fine Life," along with her firm connection to the lyrics, was a joy. The combination of London's strong portrayal and the rich, nuanced and well thought out performance of Withers more than made up for some of the shortcomings of the evening. As Oliver, Vincent Jacovo was appropriately sweet and naive and able to hit some lovely notes in his solo "Where is Love?" Asher Angel as Dodger was also charming, displaying plenty of realistic street smarts along with a nice singing voice....(Chris) Eriksen was effective at getting the menace of Bill Sykes across. (David) Simmons' rich, deep voice was simply lovely, especially during "Boy For Sale" and he also got a chance to show his comic abilities as the bumbling Dr. Grimwig. (Toby) Yatso and (Kate E.) Cook provided some nice humorous bits, with Yatso's long legs put to good use in a highly choreographed "That's Your Funeral." But Yatso also added a lovely emotional touch of caring and tenderness as Brownlowe. Cook, Johanna Carlisle and several ensemble members provided extremely lovely solos during the "Who Will Buy?" sequence. The hardworking ensemble played multiple parts with ease and the dozen children in the cast delivered some gorgeous harmonies as well as meaningful and well directed performances.While most concert performances of big musicals with large casts like Oliver! aren't fortunate enough to have fully fleshed out production values and huge ensembles, this wasn't exactly the case with this concert presentation. The use of dozens of period costumes was effective in portraying the numerous characters in the musical as were a few small set elements to evoke Fagin's lair, the orphanage, and the homes of Brownlowe and the Sowerberrys...Barnard's choreography for the many ensemble numbers was quite elaborate and added a rousing and varied amount of dance steps delivered expertly by the cast. ...Even with the shortcomings of the abbreviated plot and some of the staging, Barnard's direction of the talented cast and Muñoz's expert conducting of the orchestra led to a winning and touching production of this musical. The score of Oliver! has so many well-known and well-loved songs that hearing them delivered by an exceptional cast, headed by Withers and London, and played by such a grand, masterful orchestra, more than made up for any of the very few drawbacks of the night...." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)