By: Alex Spindler
The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s 20th anniversary season kicked off with their opening night performance of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
Adapted by Neil Bartlett, “Oliver Twist” follows the journey of orphaned Oliver from his terrors in a rogue band of ne’er-do-wells to his eventual adoption by the wealthy and loving Mr. Brownlow, played by Xavier University Theatre Department’s Professor Stephen Skiles.
As the show began, an a capella performance welcomed everyone in a true storybook- like fashion. This production offered something which remains absent in many adaptations and performances of Dickens’ work: a thrilling pulse.
In a production which could easily feel slow and tired, the physical, musical and emotional elements kept the dialogue crisp and engaging.
At first glance, the scenery immediately draws your attention.
The set, lighting and costume design painted a portrait of a world much different from our own, shifting between the dirty warehouses of 19th century England and the homes of the aristocracy.
In addition, members of the ensemble sang, danced and even played instruments like the viola and accordion.
The music advanced the narrative and set the mood for moments of despair and jubilation.
Above all, the performances from the ensemble were incredible to say the least. The cast found a thriving heart in a story where theft is commonplace and poverty runs rampant.
The dialogue, though difficult to understand at times with the Cockney accents, shined through the dramatizations of all 16 cast members.
The plot itself shifted dramatically from the humor in Oliver’s orphanage to the frightening action on the English streets, yet the cast pulled it off with aplomb.
If anything else, this production will leave you demanding, “Please sir, I want some more.”
“Oliver Twist” runs until Sept. 29 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evenings and at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons.
You can purchase tickets online at http://www.cincyshakes/oliver-twist.