Oliver! by The Haverford School in Haverford, PA
March 14, 2017
Review submitted by Emily Thompson of The Baldwin School
“Where is love?” is a question everyone wonders throughout life, but in Oliver!, the adorable orphaned boy Oliver Twist searches for and discovers the answer to that question at the end of a tumultuous journey through London.
Oliver! (based on Charles Dicken’s 1837 novel Oliver Twist) follows the story of an orphaned boy named Oliver (Austan Hengst) in Industrial-Revolution-Era London, who travels from an orphanage run by the dysfunctional couple Mrs. Corney (Katie Phillips) and Mr. Bumble (P. Spencer Davis). Oliver then ends up at a funeral home owned by Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (William Russell and Olivia Freiwald), followed by a life on the streets with the pickpockets Fagin and Dodger (Drew Weiss and Pearse Glavin) and his band of orphaned children and eventually the home of his wealthy grandfather, Mr. Brownlow (Shea Dennis). Meanwhile, Nancy (Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi) attempts to save the boy from the clutches of the villainous Bill Sikes (Andrew Lengel).
Haverford’s production of Oliver! certainly brought energy and life to an otherwise dismal plot of a poor orphaned boy, while attempting to add authenticity to the English show with cockney accents.
Drew Weiss embodied the eccentric Fagin with Johnny Depp-esque physicality and facial expressions along with his control of vocals in songs like “Reviewing the Situation” and simply laughing hysterically. Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi also brought strong presence to the stage as a vocal powerhouse with broad vocal and emotional range varying from the upbeat song “Oom Pah Pah” to the melancholy “As Long as He Needs Me.”
Mrs. Sowerberry, the wife of a funeral home-owner, was portrayed by Olivia Freiwald, whose energetic dancing, distinctive facial expressions, and powerful voice ironically brought life to the funeral home in “That’s Your Funeral.” Meanwhile, the adorable-turned-dysfunctional couple of Mrs. Corney (Katie Phillips) and Mr. Bumble (P. Spencer Davis) demonstrated comic chemistry both through line-delivery and physicality.
Stage crew executed flawless scene changes swiftly, silently, and efficiently. In addition, actress Olivia Freiwald doubled as a makeup artist, executing realistic cosmetics, particularly by adorning Fagin’s face with frown-lines.
“Reviewing the situation”, The Haverford School successfully executed an endearing, energy-driven production of Oliver!
Review submitted by Lizzie Stricklin of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School
Just like Oliver Twist himself, the Haverford School’s production of Oliver!, featuring an impressive cast and crew, left the audience asking to “have some more” of this beloved Victorian tale.
Based on the classic novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, the musical Oliver! premiered in London in 1960 with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. On his journey to find home and family, the titular character travels from a workhouse to the streets of London, encountering memorable characters along the way. Due to its large cast and use of children, Oliver! is a popular choice for high schools across the world.
The Haverford School’s production proved unique in that it featured a large child ensemble and several adults in cameo roles in addition to the student performers. Nevertheless, it was the high school actors who held the show together and brought it to life. With a devoted set of featured performers and a skillful shift crew, this production of Oliver! was both lively and sincere.
Arguably the most dynamic and driven performance was by Drew Weiss as the gang leader Fagin. Weiss displayed his versatility as both a comic relief and a driving lead actor by commanding the stage – and the many child actors – in large group numbers. He was supported by the powerful vocals and charisma of Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi as Nancy, whose rendition of “As Long as He Needs Me” was an audience favorite.
The cast was rounded out by several praiseworthy comedic performers. As the youthful Artful Dodger, Pearse Glavin led Fagin’s gang with a boisterous and vivacious magnetism. The humorous Act I duet “That’s Your Funeral” was an unexpected delight, featuring William Russell and Olivia Freiwald as Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry. Vocal highlights were also found in P. Spencer Davis and Katie Phillips as Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, respectively. Although the thick accents sometimes made the dialogue hard to understand, the crisp choreography and dedication of the cast made each song entertaining.
The talent of the cast was supported by commendable stage management by Nick Chimicles, as the shift crew completed shifts quickly and silently. With a well-rehearsed cast and efficient stage management, the Haverford School’s production of Oliver! was a laudable take on the classic Dickens’ tale.