DEC 16- 31
Buskirk-Chumley Theater
Family Holiday Musical


WFIU’s George Walker’s Review:

“An artfully staged production…energetic choreography…you’ll be impressed!”

Read Review ►


The Herald-Times Review:

Cardinal Stage hits the mark with ‘Oliver’

By Matthew Waterman
December 20, 2016


The cast of “Oliver!” Photo by Blueline Media Productions.

This year marks a decade of Cardinal Stage Company’s beloved family-friendly holiday musicals. Bloomington theater is scarce around this time of year, but the Buskirk-Chumley is always playing host to one of Cardinal’s winter extravaganzas.

And what better way to celebrate a decade of family shows than with one of Cardinal’s classics? “Oliver,” Lionel Bart’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” was one of Cardinal’s earliest musicals. This year, it’s back.

With this latest “Oliver,” Randy White has directed another polished and enjoyable production. Yet, it still seems to me that the most impressive element of putting this show together, rather than being the artistic decisions, would be managing the huge double-cast child chorus. Wrangling swarms of children is nothing new for Cardinal, though.

The opening scene is familiar to many. Dozens of scrawny English orphans shovel down bowlfuls of gruel, then one boy named Oliver does something shocking; politely asks for more. This apparent display of greed and gluttony is met with fury by the man in charge, Mr. Bumble.

My. Bumble immediately moves to rid the orphanage of Oliver, eventually leaving him in the hands of Mr. Sowerberry, an understaker who treats him no better. Oliver heroically escapes the Sowerberry household and runs off to London.

There Oliver meets a confident boy who identifies himself as the Artful Dodger. The Artful Dodger leads him to a dingy lair where an old man named Fagin operates a ring of underage piclpockets. Oliver is recruited into Fagin’s gang, thrusting the boy into a dangerous but unforgetable adventure.

Lionel Bart was one of those rare creative geniuses with the skill to adapt the script, write the lyrics and compose the music all by himself. Bart’s songs, especially “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and “Food, Glorious Food,” are memorable and charming. “Who Will Buy” is beautiful. All the music is well-executed by a cast and pit orchestra under the musical direction of Brian Samarzea.

The star of the show I reviewed and the audience’s clear favorite, jduging b the applause, was third-grader Coen Michael Berin. Despite no prior musical experience, Berin demonstrates an astounding amount of talent in his portrayal of Olier. He carries the show.

Berin is Oliver in the Dickens Cast, which performs the child roles in half of the shows. The lead role in the Bart Cast is filled by fifth-grader Ian Shaw. The cast schedules are available online at cardinalstage.org.

Mike Price plays the skeevy but slightly redeemable supervisor of child thieves, Fagin. Price, outfitted in a raggedy trenchcoat by costume designer Johna Sewell, is almost rat-like in his performance. (That’s a compliment.) His rendition of “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” is plenty of fun.

Shawn Syre is pure evil as Bill Sikes, Fagin’s adult colleague. There’s no soft side to this villain, and it’s probably for the better, lest the kids in the audience have any symphaties for his abusive behavior.

Sikes’ resilient and good-natured wife Nancy is excellently portrayed by Abby Lee. Lee is one of the strongest singers in this production. Her character’s unfortunate plight is dark spot in this otherwise fairly light musical.

Connor Starks is a friendly and wily Artful Dodger. Sam Cusack is formidable as Mr. Bumble, and his ill-fated romance with Shannon Starks as Widow Corney is funny to watch.

It’s an elaborate show with many moving parts. Mark Frederic Smith’s sceneic design, Karen Spahn’s lighting design and Diane Buzzell’s choreography all hit the mark.

As with most of Cardinal’s holiday musicals, there are very few weaknesses to speak of in the execution of the show. If you like classic family musicals with catchy tunes and happy endings, you won’t be disappointed by “Oliver.”

If you go

WHO: Cardinal Stage Company

WHAT: “Oliver” by Lionel Bart, adapted from “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens

WHERE: The Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and Dec. 38-31; 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 28 and 31

TICKETS: $13.95-39.95. Available by phone at 812-336-9300 or online at cardinalstage.org