By Jacqueline Monahan
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Charles Dickens can dance.  Well, sort of.  Super Summer Theatre’s July production of Oliver! (yes, you have to include the exclamation point) is the musical version of Dickens’ book, Oliver Twist.

The book’s characters come to life in word and song.  There’s dancing and even a little gymnastics in some of the numbers.  It’s a high-energy production that takes place…during World War II.  Look for an air raid or two.

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Sara Rose Andreas (left) as Oliver and Alexa Freeman as the Artful Dodger
 
Photo credit: John Wesley Hardin

Director Jeynifer Tribbitt moves the story nearly 100 years into the future (Dickens published the book in 1838) but the story of an orphaned boy’s misadventures among a gang of young thieves in London remains the same.

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Mr. Bumble (John Wennstrom) Sells Oliver to Undertakers
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

A large ensemble cast features Sara Rose Andreas as the titular character.  Yes, she’s a girl, but portrays a very believable Oliver, singing the poignant Where is Love? after being sold to undertakers.  The Artful Dodger also acquires some girl power by way of Alexa Freeman, who turns in a phenomenal performance as the accomplished pickpocket who befriends Oliver and introduces him to the light-fingered life of thievery with the rousing Consider Yourself.

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Fagin's Gang
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Leading the gang of street children in lifting merchandise is the middle aged Fagin (Troy Tinker) virtually a one man show of his own, with songs like You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two and Reviewing the Situation.

Other impressive adult performances include Cassandra Van Gelder and John Wennstrom as the Widow Corney and Mr. Bumble, respectively, who provide comic relief as the dubious couple running the workhouse from which Oliver is sold.  The two actors also enhanced last season’s SST production of Fiddler on the Roof.

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Oliver Finds a New Home
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn


Playing another dubious couple are Mikey Bilbray Phillips as Nancy, and Miles Coleman as Bill Sykes, a pair that travels the underside of society by any means necessary.  Coleman chews up the stage with snarling menace, while Phillips belts out lively renditions of It’s a Fine Life, and Oom-Pah-Pah; As Long as He Needs Me is a heartfelt ballad to misplaced devotion that’s loaded with torch.

 

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Nancy (Mikey Bilbray Phillips) at the Pub

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

 
If you are familiar with the plaintive musical number Who Will Buy? you may or may not like this production’s staging of the song, sung by an Andrews Sisters-type group as a radio presentation.  Call it a casualty of war but it’s hard not to compare it to the operatic, multi-part ear candy that was heard in the 1968 film version of the musical.

The bulk of the play’s charm is in its children, whether they’re a group of orphans singing Food, Glorious Food, or a gang of street urchins promising to Be Back Soon.  Andreas and Freeman are joined by Almog Aybar Agron, Gabbie Berger, Drew Freeman, Logan Linehan, Maddie McNutt, Maxwell Meyers, and Joshua Smithline in dynamic dance sequences, courtesy of choreographer Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar.

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The Cast takes a Bow

Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn


A talented female ensemble features Vicki Colombo, Destiny Faith Nelson, Memory McCallister, and Edith Wiggins.  The cast includes nine more characters not named in this article, inspired performances that you’ll just have to discover for yourselves some evening under the stars.

Oliver! is a British National Theatre of America production that will run through July 28 (Wednesday through Saturday).

About Super Summer Theatre ’12:

Tickets are $12 in advance, $20 at the gate (if seating is available) and can be purchased at the UNLV Performing Arts Box Office, Prestige Travel’s Summerlin location, 7550 W. Lake Mead Blvd., online at unlvtickets.com, or through the new print at home option at ShowTix4u.com

Guests may bring a blanket or chair for use in general-admission grass seating, suitable for enjoying a picnic or treats from the very reasonably priced concession stand which stays open until 9:00 p.m.

Gates open at 6 p.m. Performances run Wednesday through Saturday beginning at 8 p.m.  Spring Mountain Ranch is located 10 miles west of the Charleston/215 exit.

For further information:
Super Summer Theatre
(702) 594-PLAY (7529)
http://www.supersummertheatre.org