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A high-energy production of "Oliver!" by Lionel Bart wraps up Porthouse's 2014 summer season.
The story is a familiar one for fans of Charles Dickens, whose book "Oliver Twist" was the inspiration behind the musical. In the musical, Oliver (played by Cameron Nelson) is an orphan whose mother dies shortly after he is born. He spends the first years of his life in a workhouse with other orphans. The workhouse is run by the harsh Mr. Bumble (Timothy Culver of Stow) and Widow Corney (Lissy Gulick). Eventually, Oliver is sold to the undertaker Mr. Sowerberry (Rohn Thomas, who also plays Mr. Brownlow) and his wife (played by Marla Berg, who also plays Mrs. Bedwin). Things run quickly afoul for Oliver, especially after Noah Claypole (Christopher D. Tuck) starts tormenting Oliver about his deceased parents. While out on the streets, Oliver befriends The Artful Dodger (Patrick Kennedy), who introduces him to the lovable rogue Fagin (played by Cuyahoga Falls resident Eric van Baars), who has a flock of young orphans working for him as pickpockets. Oliver thinks he may have finally found some happiness with Fagin, the other boys and with the good-hearted Nancy (played by Miriam Henkel-Moellmann). But the cruel Bill Sykes (played by Cuyahoga Falls resident Brian Keith Johnson) casts a formidable shadow on the strange "family" of Fagin and the orphaned boys.
There are many outstanding performances in this show. Nelson is captivating and charming in the title role. Gulick and Culver are hilarious in their scenes together; "I Shall Scream" is one of the most hilarious moments in the show. Johnson has a powerful voice and bearing, giving the sinister Sykes a menacing presence.
Not to be forgotten is the solid performance from the children's ensemble, who give high energy and polished performances, working flawlessly together.
"They were my joy," said artistic director Terri Kent. "They work hard. They were easy to work with and took direction well. They are just little pros."
While most of the youth chorus is boys, there are five girls, including Nelson, who play boys.
"They all had long hair," Kent said. "They all went together to Head Waves to have their hair cut short, and they all donated their hair to Wigs for Kids."
Ticket and show information
"Oliver!" can be seen through Aug. 10
For tickets, call 330-672-3884, purchase online at www.porthousetheatre.com or in person at the Porthouse Box Office, in the Roe Green Center lobby of the Center for the Performing Arts at 1325 Theatre Drive in Kent. The box office is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Single tickets range from $28 to $37 for adults and seniors, and $16 to $24 for students.
Porthouse Theatre will offer a special staged reading of a new musical, "Minnie Quay" on Aug. 7 and 8 at 3 p.m.
The reading is free, and tickets will be available at the door. Jerimie Newcomb will direct. Music and lyrics are by Connor Simpson, with book by Anna Bradley and orchestrations by Vincent Ester.
Based on a popular American folk legend, this new musical tells of Minnie Quay, a young girl in a Michigan port town who falls in love with a sailor against her parents' wishes.
This show is produced, written, directed and orchestrated by Kent State School of Theatre students and alumni. It features members of Porthouse Theatre's 2014 Young Professional Company as well as several Kent State School of Theatre and Dance alumni and current students.