Granbury Theatre Company
Director –Shannah Rae
Children’s Director—Alicia Broadhurst
Music Director—Shannah Rae
Choreography – Angela Burkey
Scenic Designers—Phil Groeschel and Kerri Pavelick
Lighting Designer—Kalani Morrissette
Sound Designer – Kyle Hoffman
Costume Designer – Emily Warwick
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Oliver Twist—William Power
Artful Dodger—Brandon Shreve
Bill Sykes—Michael Lain
Mr. Bumble—Brian Lawson*
Widow Corney—Katy Beckermann*
Mr. Sowerberry—Charles Mason**
Mrs. Sowerberry—Kelly Nickell*
Noah Claypole—David Broberg
Mr, Brownlow—Rob Parrott
Mrs. Bedwin—Connie Ingram*
Dr. Grimwig—Jeff Mastick*
Ensemble—Kevin Baum, Domanick Anton Hubbard, Christian Loper, Michele Mastickm Kaci Whitten
ensemble—Victoria Burkey, Dylan Howard, Kaitlyn Ann Howard, Brylea Hyde, Grace Jones, Andrea Faith Malcolm, Rachel Mastick, Audrey Ann McKee, Collin Perry, Madilyn Perry, Savannah Solsbery, Tessa Trimble, Travis Trimble, Emmie Vaughn, Ian White
Reviewed Performance 10/1/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
There is always something going on in Granbury, Texas and the Granbury Theatre Company is no different. From “Singin’ in the Rain” to “Little Shop of Horrors,” Granbury Theatre Company gives audiences opportunities to see bona fide Broadway hits in the comfort of Granbury, Texas. This is a unique city about 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth in Hood County. Not only that, the venue itself is extraordinary. The 1886 Opera House that houses the Granbury Theatre Company is so interesting. Since opening its doors 130 years ago, many stories have been told there. Vaudeville, Dramatic Productions, and Musical Performances are among the many mediums that have taken place there. Currently, the story of the month is Oliver! - An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
Oliver! has also been parodied in other areas of entertainment. From Family Guy to Frasier (When asked to write a theme song for his radio program, Frasier has come up empty handed. But, colleague Gil Chesterton (KACL’s restaurant critic) offers the following story for Frasier to help him select a song. “My first choice was “Food, Glorious Food” from the show Oliver!” Frasier ironically quips, “That’s a perfect match. Haute cuisine, and a chorus of starving orphans.” No matter what the medium, pop culture references are everywhere. Especially references to Broadway theatre. They are just served up one helping after another. Ha…see what I did there? And now, on to a little refresher of Oliver Twist, consider this your return to high school English class, and the review of Granbury Theatre Company’s production of Oliver!.
Before you potentially roll your eyes at an adaptation of a Charles Dickens’ novel…Oliver! takes the audience on a rather fun musical journey of a drab and depressing time in Victorian England. If you can’t remember reading Oliver Twist in school, allow me to refresh your memory. In the workhouse of Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, a young orphan (Oliver Twist) asks to be fed more gruel than usual (“Please, sir can I have some more?”). He is then taken and sold to an assortment of motley characters throughout England before winding up in London under the unofficial guardianship of Fagin, (an aging criminal who now trains youngsters to commit petty theft by picking pockets) and the Artful Dodger, the cleverest of Fagin’s pick-pockets. Oliver! was the first musical adaptation of a Charles Dickens’ novel to become a stage hit, and has inspired several film adaptations, including a 1968 UK film.
Director Shannah Rae brought together a tight ensemble cast of youth and veteran actors who worked well together, and created a fantastic representation of classic literature on stage. The concept and vision for this production truly bridged the element of classic literature and modern stage musical. The company was so fully charged with energy. From the moment the overture began, the audience was transported back to Victorian Era England Overall, the staging and conceptualization were very pleasant, and visually pleasing. It is apparent to me that a lot of time and care went into the vision of this production. The younger members of the ensemble were a treat to watch, and it was most impressive to have Ms. Rae preface the audience with how they prepared for their role of poverty-stricken orphans. It was admirable to hear that the members of the youth cast were led in an in-depth discussion about how poverty is still present in our society and how it affected children just like them.
Set Designer Phil Groeschel successfully transformed the proscenium stage into the multiple locations in the story. While the main set never changed, different items where brought on as each location changed to give differentiation. It was impressive to see how such simple things like a picnic table, or a mantle could totally I was very impressed with the bright use of colors, textures, and designs used to convey each location in the story. I was especially impressed with how quickly set pieces moved on and off-allowing each transition to flow directly into the scene. The scenic designs allowed the story to move quickly from one event to the next.
I was absolutely awe-struck by the opening and closing moments of the production. A large book was flown in and out with the text: “I confess I have yet to learn that a lesson of the purest good may not be drawn from the vilest evil,” a theme that is consistently present throughout the story of Oliver Twist. In the opening, Oliver stood in a fabulous shadowed tableau mirroring an illustration from the book. As the show came to a close, the book was once again flown in with the same quote-this time, with Fagin in the final illustration tableau. It really helped to “book-end” the show from beginning to end. It was really one of those moments that gave me chills. I love it when productions evoke that feeling from audience members.
There were some apparent audio issues that plagued the cast, it was hard to hear the cast throughout the production, and there was some microphone interference that would intermittently make it difficult to hear the actors, as well. However, the cast and crew were able to overcome these issues as the production hit stride, and the cast handled these issues with professionalism and grace. Additionally, there were a few stumbles (pacing and energy seemed to drag early in the second act) but considering the complexity of the production, mixed with a large youth cast, this could easily be excused. As the production progresses further into the production run, I fully expect the energy to remain consistent throughout the course of the production.
Emily Warwick designed costumes that were not only period-appropriate, but had a great attention to detail. There were a lot of details that Ms. Warwick incorporated into each costume, making them visually stunning and creative representations of the Victorian Era. This has been the fourth production that I have seen at Granbury Theatre Company with costumes designed by Ms. Warwick, and I have never been disappointed. Not only does Ms. Warwick find the time to design multitudes of fabulous costumes, but, she also appears as Nancy in the production, as well. (Does she ever sleep?!) Her show-stopping vocals are very reminiscent of old fashioned Broadway standard singers. Ms. Warwick has a commanding vocal and physical presence and is truly talented on stage as actress, and behind the scenes as costume designer. Brava, Ms. Warwick.
Ricky Pope was phenomenal in the role of Fagin. Mr. Pope delivered a spot on, and honest portrayal of the elderly criminal, who takes on the “not so fatherly” figure of the young boys who he trains as pick-pockets. Not only did Mr. Pope deliver with an incredible singing voice, but, he also delivered with his British dialect. Mr. Pope was given the ultimate task of carrying the production (in several scenes) while completely alone on stage. I have always been moved by actors who are given the huge responsibility of being alone on stage during a production. Not only do they have to keep the story moving, but, they are also the sole element of focus for the audience. Mr. Pope carried these scenes across with confidence and eloquence. Additionally, Mr. Pope’s resume is quite impressive. It should come as no surprise to audiences who see him in this production that Mr. Pope has many years of production experience. He has appeared in many productions across the country. It was a treat to see someone with such notable credits appear locally in Texas.
Another standout was Brandon Shreve in the role of the Artful Dodger. Through comedic delivery, a likeable on-stage persona and an incredible vocal range, Mr. Shreve brought an element of maturity to the role. He also brought an element of light-heartedness and merriness to a rather somber and depressing story. Mr. Shreve also has quite the remarkable resume for a high school senior. I can tell that Mr. Shreve has the dedication, the heart, and the talent to be among the next generation of local and national theatrical performance artisans. He was lively, energetic, and portrayed such a genuine character.
This production of Oliver! is worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a pleasant experience at the theatre. If you are looking for classic musical theatre, look no further. Oliver! Is certainly one of the prototypical productions in the archive of modern musical theatre? Plan a day trip to Granbury, Texas and to the Granbury Theatre Company. In the words of the Artful Dodger: “Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family….” Consider seeing Oliver! A fun time will be had by all.
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House, 133 E. Pearl Street, Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through Oct. 30.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm. Ticket prices range from $25-$30 depending on seating (Prime: Rows A, B, C, D, Standard or Balcony: Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J, Balcony). For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For info and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.