“Oliver” is a classic “big theater musical” with a lot of set changes, lighting cues and sound cues all done very smoothly on a cleverly-designed set. There is also a big cast with lots of children to move around the stage as well. The fun of a big production like this is being able to bring in members of the community to be a part of the show. For the kids it is a great opportunity to work with talented and experienced people, and to see if theater is something they want to pursue either for fun or as a profession.
Reid Tomasson does a good job as Oliver, but needs to sing with a little more confidence. The level of talent does drop off somewhat after the professionals. I understand giving everyone a chance, but I would like to have heard some of the professional voices sing “Who will buy?” That combined with stiff staging made for an awkward moment in the show. A more natural looking street scene would have worked better. As a general note, the show needs more precision and energy, but I suspect that will come quickly.
I am glad Caleb Donahoe is not seriously hurt, and I hope his injury does not hold him back from giving the energetic performance he is clearly capable of. Caleb has shown us in “Spelling Bee” and “As You Like It” that he has the voice, the musicianship and the looks to make it in show business.
Ryan Hickey (Bill Sykes) makes a strong entrance and impression with “My Name.” Ryan brought the level of melodrama needed for this production; the other actors need to bring the melodrama up to his level. We do get that from Bob Colonna as Fagin, who delivers a strong performance. Amanda Spear, even in a small part, gives her all and draws your eye. She is another stand out for Festival 56 this year.
Ashleigh Thompson gives the vocal performance of the night with “As He Needs Me.” Her voice is almost too powerful for the song. Ashleigh also gives the most consistent accent in the show and delivers that over the top melodramatic performance I mentioned earlier that the part calls for.
Overall, “Oliver” is a cute show, good family entertainment everyone will enjoy. This year has proven to be the year of singers for Festival 56, and this production delivers on that front. “Oliver” will perform July 11-25 at Princeton High School Council Auditorium.