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)

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