“Please, sir, may I have some more?”
So asks Oliver Twist, the 11-year-old orphan from Charles Dickens’ classic 1838 novel. Adapted into a musical by Lionel Bart, “Oliver!” took to the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre stage last weekend, with performances running through May 13.
Oliver’s simple question leads him down a dark path that changes the course of his life. He was the first boy at the workhouse orphanage to ever ask for seconds at mealtime. Thus labeled rude and ungrateful, Oliver was immediately sold off to a greedy and selfish family.
Finding an opportunity to escape his difficult situation, Oliver makes his way to the streets of London, where he meets a young, street smart boy who calls himself the Artful Dodger. Dodger introduces him to a group of street rat children led by a man named Fagin, a longtime criminal.
Fagin schools his young gang in the art of pickpocketing, but Oliver, ever the innocent, is caught on his first attempt. However, a wealthy and kind man named Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver in, in hopes of giving him a better life.
Meanwhile, Fagin’s partner Bill Sikes worries that Oliver will lead authorities to his hideout. In hopes of preventing the orphan's capture, Sikes forces his girlfriend, Nancy, to help him kidnap Oliver, bringing him back to the thieves.
“Oliver!” is laced with beautiful and entertaining songs, such as “Food,” “Where is Love,” “Consider Yourself” and “As Long As He Needs Me.” CenterPoint's young actors portrayed the orphans with energy and vitality, which made for an entertaining performance.
Riley Allen, who played the role of Dodger on Saturday evening, stole the show with his smooth charm and wit. Performing with Jonathan Martineau, who played the part of Oliver (T/Th/S), the duo formed a relationship onstage that was believable and rambunctious.
Martineau’s performance as Oliver was sweet and endearing. His innocence shone through, especially as he sang his ballad, wondering, “Where is Love?” His portrayal of the young orphan was heartwarming.
Allen, Martineau and the other children in the cast also demonstrated a strong and impressive vocal performance.
Although a large portion of the cast is made up of children, the adults in the show also had their moments to shine. Adam West, who played the role of Fagin, was both hilarious and disgustingly evil in his performance. His complex role caused audiences to love and hate him simultaneously.
Melissa Lawyer, in the role of Nancy, brought down the house with her dramatic rendition of “As Long As He Needs Me.” She portrayed her character in a way that gave her depth and likability.
Overall, the production brought a variety of complex characters and musical numbers together in a setting that was both youthful and dark.
Content advisory: According to a press release from CenterPoint, “Oliver!” is “a family classic that is suitable for all audiences including children; however, children between the ages of five and ten should attend at a parent's discretion.”