THEATER REVIEW

Shakespeare troupe’s Oliver! full of delights

There’s gruel in Oliver!, Lionel Bart’s musical based on the book Oliver Twist.

But the charming show, as performed by Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre (yes, they’re dabbling in Charles Dickens), is not at all grueling.

The story follows Oliver, an orphan boy who dares to ask for more (before being sold to undertakers, running away, becoming a thief and finding a family); it had a smooth opening at Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas Wednesday night, aside from some sound issues in the first act.

Simon Marotte, son of Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre Executive Director Mary Ruth Marotte, was lovable as 10-year-old Oliver, as was the cute cast of children who joined in on the musical’s most memorable songs, including “Food Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself” and “I’d Do Anything.”

Stealing the show as eccentric sticky fingers Fagin, who leads the boys thieving gang (call it an 1830s answer to the Bling Ring), was New York-based Warren Kelley, whose TV and film credits include Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, Law & Order: SVU, Chappelle’s Show, The Other Guys and the forthcoming film Birdman with Michael Keaton. His number “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” was priceless, as was a ramble that he finished with: “What the Dickens am I talking about?”

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre will present Oliver! again at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. June 25 and 28 in Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas, 201 Donaghey Ave., Conway. The show, including intermission, lasts about two and a half hours.

Little Rock writer and actor Bill Jones, who plays Mr. Brownlow in Oliver!, will give a pre-show talk at 7 p.m. Saturday on the reissued Classics Illustrated graphic-novel adaptation of Oliver Twist, for which he wrote the introduction. Oliver! tickets are $27 ($22 students senior citizens and military). Call (866) 810-0012 or visit arkshakes.com.

Arkansas, Pages 13 on 06/13/2013