2016 - 2017 Season
Theatre Sarnia’s Handbill
Theatre Sarnia’s Production of Oliver: Stellar Around The Music, Excellent Because of It
Sunday May 14, 2017
by Brian Hay
Musical Director Cy Giacomin and the thirteen musicians he worked with took Lionel Bart’s music and gave this production a foundation capable of supporting a mountain. Their performance of the ensemble piece ‘Who Will Buy My Roses?’ and the work of the singers involved captured the melancholia of the setting along with the fragility of the people involved while conveying their underlying hope and appreciation of simple beauties they struggled to hold on to. It was a sequence that played out with such sublime brilliance only the heartless could be immune. It’s just one example among many.
The lighting schemes created by Catherine Souliere worked around the set designed by Dan Tidball to provide the canvas for the music. Wardrobes, designed by Tina Laughington and a team of assistants helped depict the characters as did the makeup created by the group working with Rose Canino. Choreography was set up nicely by Sarah Matuzic and the fight scenes staged by Dave Mitchell (also the production’s ‘Bill Sykes’) flowed with a sense of ease while the sound was balanced nicely by Ian Alexander and Dan Tidball. Stage management and movement of props was, to say the least, slick. Credit for that falls to Andrea Matthews and her assistants.
Performances of all the roles were covered well. Ruth Francoeur and Marney Austin brought humour to the parts of ‘Mrs. Sowerberry’ and the ‘Widow Corney’ and were countered neatly by Frank Kirkey and Denis Drapeau as ‘Mr. Bumble’ and ‘Mr. Sowerberry’. Talia Mielke had few lines but came through with some fine singing as ’Nancy’s’ confidante ‘Charlotte’. Tayler Hartwick made his brief turn as the despicable ‘Bef’ memorable and Kelly Graham came across as a wonderfully sympathetic ‘Mrs. Bedwin’. The support she provided to the gentle and generous nature Joe Agocs gave to Mr. Brownlow’ created endearing moments for both.
Jack Vrolyk brought some good tongue-in-cheek touches to the role of ‘The Artful Dodger’. Dave Mitchell’s portrayal of ‘Bill Sykes’ was impressive because he created the image of a being that could only be described as a monster. There wasn’t a trace of compassion or any sort of tenderness and he kept it consistent. Opposite him, Samantha Regan delivered a ’Nancy’ who was kind of heart, decent to a fault, yet jaded enough to be free of illusions. Some her moments opposite Ben Adair in the part of the title character were among the most moving in the performance. Ben’s work as ’Oliver’ was nuanced, complex, and brimming with emotion. He became ‘Oliver Twist’.
Dave Evans portrayal of ‘Fagin’ was magnificent in every sense of the word. He got, and effectively projected the character’s unusual mixture villainy, lecherousness and underlying virtue as if he’d been living them his entire life. Everything from his physical mannerisms to singing and his control of the dialect in his spoken delivery was flawless and rang with the same message: There’s a new ‘Fagin’ in town and he’s it. He simply was that good.
The success of this production ultimately lies with how the music was dealt with and the group in place did a phenomenal job. The musicians involved were bass clarinetists, Frank Brennan and Karin Williams, clarinetist Blake Stevenson and flautist Tessa Catton. Brass and percussion were handled by french horn player Christine Schofield, trumpeter Bill Nelson and percussionists Jake Schindler and Mark Swan. The performers in the string section were double bass players Andrew Lloyd and Filip Stasiak, cellist Marcia Case, viola player Stephen Collins and violinist Caitlin Mason with Giacomin directing from the keyboard. Not enough praise can be given to their work. The same is true for the vocal and dialect coaches, Rachel Giacomin and Cherie Guthrie. Without their contributions the often thick cockney accents and challenging demands in many of the songs would have created problems with both the singing and the audience being able to understand the dialogue. Director Anthony Fracalanza paced everything around the tempos established by the score, trusted the ability of the people around him and allowed the pieces to mesh. They did and everything worked. It was a masterpiece of knowing what to do and what to delegate.
The list of names could go on and there’s a lot that couldn’t be included because of the number of people involved. They can rest assured they’ve been part of something special though because this one deserves to play to packed houses.
This performance of ‘Oliver’ took place at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia Ontario on Saturday May 13, 2017. The article was written to coney impressions of what it was like to be there watching.