Want to introduce your children to the great literary minds of the English language?
Drury Lane’s Oliver has the combination of slapstick, dance, song and peer talent that will catch the eye of every middle schooler.
I remember well that taking on the Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and other Dickens epics at the age of 11 was a bit daunting. Though the distractions of Instant Messenging and Game Boys then were not yet known, the many twists and turns of the typical Dickens plot weren’t easy for a pubescent mind to focus on. That Dickens was paid by the word was apparent even to an 11 year old.
Even way back then there were Cliff notes, but then something better came along. It was the Broadway adaptation of the London play “Oliver”, with the future lead singer for the Monkeys in the role of the Artful Dodger.
We don’t know where the many talented youths in Drury Lane’s production of Oliver will go next and if they too are the future rock stars of tomorrow. We do know however, that they will delight family audiences today. Of special note is Brady Tutton in the title role, and J.D. Rodriguez as the Artful Dodger who shows Oliver the ways of pickpockets and navigating the streets.
This is the story of ill-fated orphan Oliver Twist, who endures the cruelties of the nascent industrial age in England and all variants of schemers such as Fagin played by John Reeger. All are trying to make their way in the harsh world of those times, including the band of pickpockets with whom Oliver finds himself.
This is also the story of a woman who loves the wrong man too much, Nancy, skillfully played by Heidi Kettenring.
And (Spoiler Alert!) it is a tale of suffering that manages to have both a tragic and happy ending.
Even if you think you don’t’ know this legendary musical or Dickens novel you probably DO know the many songs that have traveled to pop charts independently through the decades such as “Where is Love?” and “Consider Yourself” (..part of the family…).
For city denizens who wonder why they should venture all the way to Oakbrook Terrace consider this:
1) The hundreds of theaters in Chicago proper are overflowing with “triple threat” talent that can act, dance AND sing. BUT we have relatively few productions each year where these multi-talented actors can show their stuff.
Drury Lane consistently puts the spotlight on this talent that otherwise remains relatively unseen.
2) The conductor and musicians following the inspiration of the Jeff Award winner musical director Roberta Duchak are superb and the acoustics are very pleasing.
In particular, the bassoon seems to sing the plotline to us at several points. When the bassoon stops the clarinet takes over in what sounds much like a rousing Klezmer dance. Without exception, the singing is top notch. This is ear candy all the way.
3) If you want to inspire children to enjoy theater for their lifetime you can do no better than enthralling them with top notch performance by chronological peers. Drury Lane has sought this talent and delivers it to us. It’s well worth the gas!
Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL
April 4, 2013 through June 2, 2013
Tickets: $30 (students); $35- $49 --ask about Senior Citizen discounts
Box Office: (630) 530 - 0111 (or TicketMaster 800- 745 - 3000), www.drurylane.com
Photos: Brett Beiner