Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Fun, Glorious, Fun! at the Centenary Stage Company's terrific "Oliver"

Terrific is surely the best word to describe the Centenary Stage Company's production of Lionel Bart's "Oliver" now on the stage of the new and very comfortable Sitnick Theatre of the Lackland Center in Hackettstown.
This production of the Centenary Stage Company's award-winning musical "Oliver" is an absolute delight to see and hear. 
We walked to our car following the Saturday night performance singing some of the wonderful songs, e.g. "As Long As He Needs Me" and "Who Will Buy," as were other car-bound theater-goers. When did you last do that?  

This is an event that can clearly be enjoyed by all members of the family...fine actors, wonderful hummable music, happy ending and not a single 'naughty' word.

The play, of course, is based on "Oliver Twist" the classic tale by Charles Dickens. It has been brought to life beautifully by Broadway and film veteran,
Michael Blevins, who not only directed, but choreographed the large cast. The word 'large' may be an understatement. "Oliver" has the largest cast of any play we've seen in years...50!

Anthony Zas and Carl Wallnau
In the stand-out "Who Will Buy" production number, we counted 32 adult performers. Possibly, only a theater facility, such as the Centenary Stage Company, home-based in a college community with a highly respected Theater Department, and with a Young Performers Workshop program, could possibly mount a musical of this scale.

The play tells the tale of the orphan boy, Oliver Twist, played impressively by young
Anthony Zas, who is swept into a band of pickpockets led by the wily Fagin. Fagin is played to evil perfection, and with a great voice, by the CSC artistic director, Carl Wallnau. His show-stopping number is "Reviewing the Situation."

The wonderful theater word 'show-stopper' also belongs to Lea Antolini-Lid as Nancy. She is a fine actress and singer who delivers the show's most popular, and emotional, song, "As Long As He Needs Me."

The fine cast is a combination of Equity professional actors in the lead roles, supported by Centenary College students and the before mentioned, Young Performers Workshop Students.

 In the key role of the villain Bill Sykes, is CSC veteran, Osborn Focht.  The other excellent leads are: The Artful Dodger played by Justin Boccitto; Maria Brodeur as Mrs. Berwin; Stephen Davis as Mr. Brownlow; and  Colleen Wallnau Smith, who provides wonderful comedy relief as Widow Corney; and Dave Scheffler as the master of the workhouse, Mr. Bumble.

The supporting cast is also blessed with outstanding voices,for example, in the "Who Will Buy" number there is
Tanya Wheelock as the Rose Seller, Christine Mase as the Strawberry Seller and Saquan Williams as the Long Song Seller.

The entire cast is very ably supported by a fine orchestra directed by
Gabe Toth. Production values are first rate; Joyce Liao designed the lighting, Brian Flynn designed the clever multi-step set, Julia Sharp designed the costumes. Nick Ardito-Martelli is the Dance Captain, Daniel Koyle designed the wigs and hair pieces, and pulling the entire production together is the Stage Manager Jackie Mariani and her Assistants Jon Bodi and Samantha Santana.

In short, when the curtain came down the audience was heard to say the greatest compliment an audience can give to performers beyond applause... “Please sir, may I have some more?”

"Oliver!" is running through Dec 12th. Shows are Thursday evenings at 7:30pm (Family Night-with two-for-one tickets available at the door on the night of the performance),  Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Sundays at 2:30pm,  with weekday  matinees on  Wed, Dec 1st  and Wed Dec 8th at 2:30pm,  as well as a 10 am school performance on Tuesday Dec 7 for regional students. 

Lackland Center
Check the ticket prices!  Tickets for “Oliver” range in price from $20-25, with discounts for seniors and students, and can be purchased through the Centenary Stage Company Box Office in the new David and Carol Lackland Center at  715 Grand Ave, Hackettstown, by phone at 908-979-0900, and online at

A Buffet Matinee series is available for groups of 20 or more, priced at $37.50 for performance and luncheon.

Here is a list of all the supporting performers;

Centenary College Students :  Tanya Wheelock, Megan McGill, Emilio Tiri , Saquan Williams  Casey Bauer, Brittany Dalessio Kyle Conner, Jon Bodi, Nick Ardito, Khiry Best, Kyle Porham, Alexandra Poage, Morgan Mack, Rachel Grant, and Christen Demintz,

Young Performers Workshop Students:  Scott Abbondanzo, Cydney Black, Andy Calderone Jacob Crisafulli, McKenzie Custin, Emily Devine, Alex Evans, Neil Ianniello, Skye Kenyon, Daniel Marion, Montana Marsilio, Erin Martire, Andrew Nussbaum, Raphael Pelczmann, Anthony Sica, Nick Sica, Ashley Terpak, Brandon Wiener, Hunter Gross and Katie Yarussi

 Professional/ Regional Actors:    Steven Bidwell , Christine De Frece, Shirley Bravo, Deborah Guarino, Maria Brodeur, James Nester Christine Mase, Leon Hill, Amanda Maxfield.

Review by Rick Busciglio (November 28, 2010)

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