Super Summer Theatre's "Oliver!" had the potential to be a good show, but director Jeynifer Tribbitt has gotten in the way.
The British National Theatre of America production starts with a patriotic song - as if the sad tale of an orphan boy was in counterpoint with the vanity of Great Britain. The overstatement isn't needed. Then a series of bombings puts us in the middle of the London blitz. Apparently, the external destruction of the land is a metaphor for the nation's callousness.
Charles Dickens - whose novel "Oliver Twist" is the source material - wrote about mid-1800 social disorders. By making Oliver a victim of the chaos of war, Tribbitt has turned this into a generic story (curious that no one, especially the rich, seems worried about destruction.)
The director shows little flare for musical comedy. She cuts verses from the title song, apparently unaware how important verse repetition is to this kind of entertainment (far better to have removed a couple of the less integral numbers).
When hungry kids fantasize about full bellies in "Food, Glorious Food," they don't seem to care much one way or the other.
When Oliver, after roaming the streets, meets up with a new friend - the Artful Dodger - the two barely acknowledge one another. The welcoming song "Consider Yourself" features choreography by Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar that has the cast pretty much just stand around for half the number.
But nothing is sadder than what's been done to "Who Will Buy?" It's been reduced to a few bars of Andrews Sisters pastiche.
Troy Tinker has a domineering presence as Fagin, the head of a pickpocket gang. He always seems to be on the verge of a performance. Sara Andreas makes for a convincing, likable Oliver. And Miles Coleman delivers perhaps the most fully realized creation in the brief role of Bill Sykes. The actor doesn't need to say or do much to convince us to stay out of his way.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at email@example.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125