The Column Online



by Lionel Bart
Based upon the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Artisan Center Theater

Directed by Christine Chambers
Producer - Dee Ann Blair
Set Designer - Jason Leyva
Costume Designer - Rebecca Roberts
Light Designer - Branson White
Music Director - Richard Gwozdz
Stage Managers - Lindsay Hardisty & Phyllis Huaute
Scenic Painting - Lily Stapp-Courtney
Production Assistant - Rob Colwell
Choreographer - Elise Lavallee

CAST (NOTE: Some roles are double cast, critic reviewed the
following performers):

Oliver Twist - Isaac Jarrell
Fagin - Jason Leyva
The Artful Dodger - Zach Leyva
Mr. Bumble - Toni Billante
Nancy - Stephanie Felton
Bet - Chloe Vories
Bill Sykes - Zeke Branim
Widow Corney - Evelyn Kryska
Mr. Sowerberry - Timothy Raif
Mrs. Sowerberry - Kimberly Mickle
Mr. Brownlow - Ron Staggs
Dr. Grimwig/Night Watchman - Rob Colwell
Girl/School Girl - Grace Addington and Sadie Leyva
Knife Grinder/Bow Street Runner - Michael Magnus
Charlotte/Strawberry Seller - Ariana Stephens
Noah Claypole - Matthew Pandolfo
Mrs. Bedwin - Rosemary Kryska
Old Sally - Glenda Maskell
Rose Seller - Emma Colwell
Milk Maid - Delaney Griffith
Featured Dancer - Amanda Merrill
Charles Bates/Workhouse Child - Joshua Noel
Book Boy/Workhouse Child/Fagin's Gang - Pearce Colwell
Washer Woman - Sadie Brabander
Workhouse Server - Garrett de Graffenreid
Workhouse Server/Long Song Seller/Bow Street Runner - Nick Engstrom

Workhouse Child/Fagin's Gang - Ian Nance, Elijah Brabander, Ivan Friend Ethan Jarrell, Collin Tooley, Noah Jarrell, Jonathan Booker

Reviewed Performance: 3/24/2012

Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Flexibility seems to be Artisan Center Theater's middle name. A week ago I viewed their production of "Big River" with the great Mississippi coursing through the stage and this week pickpockets, flower girls and knife grinders gallivanted around the stage transformed into 19th century London in the musical Oliver!

Costumer Rebecca Roberts did a glorious job dressing the huge variety of street people. The prop of flowing sheets of music on a long pole for the "long song seller" charmed me the most.

This British musical based upon Charles Dickens' lengthy novel, Oliver Twist, has been gracing stages regularly since 1960. Whether or not you've already seen the musical, film or mini-series, this production was certainly a wonderful family show that you must try to see before it closes on April 28th. If you were blessed to read the novel as a course requirement, the musical is a nice reward for getting through the text of Dickens.

You will need to be a little patient regarding the opening number. It started off a little sluggish with the orphan boys' chorus struggling a bit to keep up with accompaniment that overpowered them.

However, before long, the volume adjusted and the show heated up to a boil as the audience became caught up in its magic. The orphan boys ate their gruel, tapping wooden spoons at long tables in lovely synchronicity.

The choreography by Elise Lavallee was simply charming. Jason Leyva designed highly effective sets with smoky hideouts and revolving sections. I understand he worked tirelessly to transform the stage from a big river to central London. The circular set design gave every seat a great view and the actors played well to every angle.

In the first scene we heard the line, "Please sir, I want some more," spoken by the slight boy, Oliver, played by Isaac Jarrell. This young man performed the lead well, showing us a polite boy who never quite conformed to the wickedness of those around him yet also became a feisty fellow who pummeled a boy much bigger than he in honor of his dead mother.

Wicked, creepy characters abound in this good versus evil story. Zeke Bramin played the ominous Bill Sykes who threatened and growled at everyone who crossed his path. His voice was strong but I did wish for a little less growling & more variance with his characterization.

His love interest, Nancy, was played by the full voiced Stephanie Felton who did a fine job showing how an abused woman clings to an evil man even though the consequences are dire. The composer, Lionel Bart, gave this character many show stopping moments to bring out this point, including, "As Long As He Needs Me."

One character stood out as the one who raised the bar on the level of acting as soon as he stepped onto the stage. This would be Jason Leyva as the dastardly villain, Fagin. The pickpocket boys obviously enjoyed the rollicking scenes with their corrupted leader. They danced about the smoky stage and introduced Oliver to the fine art of pick pocketing.

The boys' chorus certainly redeemed themselves in the number "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" with joyfully naughty singing. Fagin allowed them to pull scarves from his pockets as they cavorted and cart wheeled about. In another street scene the boys created a mock carriage with parasol wheels?simply ingenious staging!

The scene that broadened my smile the most was Fagin with his main pickpocket,The Artful Dodger, played by Zach Leyva. I recalled chatting with Jason Leyva and his talented son Zach after a production of another play last month. Thus it was a delight to witness again the love between this father and son which shone so brightly as they danced and sang as two crafty characters. This brilliantly showed what community theatre is all about?bringing together family and folks to have more fun than spitting on heads from the top of a Ferris wheel.

Director Christine Chambers did a fine job corralling the huge cast of Texans to create a London tale with rather accurate English Southern drawls slipped through! We traveled back in time and across the ocean and enjoyed an account of a dark time in history. This musical was written by a man who did not even read or write music. That didn't stop Lionel Bart from creating a condensed but potent version of a social novel known for its dense text. Hidden in the dark British humor were profound themes of child labor, poverty, and the treatment of orphans.

The audience laughed enthusiastically at the satire and sarcasm with the aide of a musical theater structure that lightened the woeful themes and reminded us "It's a Fine Life" indeed, if we choose it.

Artisan Center Theater, 418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, TX 76053
Plays through April 28th

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30pm, and Saturdays at 3:00pm and 7:30pm.

Ticket price: $9.00-$18.00. For info & to purchase tixs go to or call 817-284-1200.