Oliver! – Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA
April 26, 2016
Review by: Ashley Stauber of Germantown Academy
In their latest musical, Oliver!, the Academy of The New Church shimmers with alacrity and talent.
Charles Dickens’s story of the tumultuous life of an orphan was adapted into a musical in 1960 with music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart.
Nimble on his feet and adroit in action, Declan Durand (Oliver) also dazzled with his bell-like vocals. Tykah Echols (Fagin) wowed with her talented acting and chiming vocals in playing such a crafty character. She nailed her performance of the number, “Reviewing the Situation”. Ryan Synnestvedt (Artful Dodger) performed with a clear accent and stayed tuned in throughout the musical.
Exuding her character’s pain realistically, Brianna Salvatori (Nancy) gave an emotionally riveting performance fortified by her vocals that resonated with excellence. Cade Bau-Madsen (Mr. Bumble) gave a commendable performance aided by his comedic antics and bold vocal tone. Alongside him, Brielle Williams (Widow Corney) acted gleefully with her animated facial expressions. Brittany Gunther (Mrs. Sowerberry) also acted with a crackling feistiness and sang with a melodic tone. Her combination with Galen Stevens-King (Mr. Sowerberry), whose mischievous mannerisms and unique vocals aided his performance, was diabolical.
Vociferous and vibrant, the ensemble steadily performed with energy throughout the show. At times the actors’ diction was a bit murky due to the fact that they sometimes turned in towards the stage too much when reciting their lines. That said, they did a commendable job of navigating around the onstage props. There was an interesting variety of choreography that the cast tackled with skill. While sometimes their faces seemed a bit blank, they made use of all of the space on stage and danced dexterously. The makeup also was perfect for the time period and accentuated the actors’ faces nicely.
The lighting transitions were also beautiful, especially when shifting from night to day scenes. Additionally, in terms of scenery, the set was both aesthetically pleasing and profound. Faced with the challenge of maneuvering such an extensive set, the crew performed smoothly and professionally.
Academy of The New Church’s latest production of Oliver! leaves one boldly asking for more.
Review by: Gabriella Bloom of Upper Dublin High School
Consider yourself fortunate if you were able to catch Academy of the New Church’s production of Oliver! With its charismatic cast, heartwarming music, and dazzling scenery, this take on a classic tale proved to all that it is a fine life indeed.
Oliver! tells the story of the escapades of a young orphan boy named Oliver Twist, who constantly finds himself wrangling with trouble in the bustling streets of London. Throughout the story, Oliver finds himself entangled in the lives of suspicious figures, and adopts their lifestyle of thievery to survive. The musical is based on the novel by Charles Dickens, and found success in its premiere at the West End, and eventually on Broadway. Today, it is recognized as a classic in the hearts of musical lovers.
Academy of the New Church’s production showcased strong ensemble work, beautifully constructed sets, and admirable character work from all of its leads and supporting leads. Group numbers such as “Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Oom-Pah-Pah” exuded energy, and heartfelt solos including “Where Is Love?” and “As Long As He Needs Me” showcased strong vocal ability.
The production was led by Oliver, played by Declan Durand, who was equally as convincing as a young child as he was lovable. Brianna Salvatori gave a strong performance as Nancy, and Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (played by Galen Stevens-King and Brittany Gunther, respectively) shared an entertaining comedic chemistry onstage. Fagin (Tykah Echols) carefully orchestrated the spectacle with consistent physicality.
Ensemble work included specific character work and well-coordinated choreography. Perhaps most enjoyable to watch was Fagin’s gang, led by the charming Artful Dodger (Rayna Synnestvedt), with their agile movements and good use of space. Further, the Street Vendor ensemble was able to create a placid, dream-like environment in one of the most notable moments of the show.
Technically, this show displayed impressively beautiful scenery. Each backdrop and set piece was appropriate to the setting of the story and very detail-oriented. The most useful and visually stunning piece was Fagin’s hideout; it was the perfect space for the actors to play around. At times, the sounds that were made during set changes distracted the audience from the actors. However, this was a minor issue that only occurred a couple of times.
In all, Academy of the New Church put forth a praiseworthy production of a true classic. If anything is to be learned from their efforts, it is that love can be found anywhere at all, even on a stage.