Rachel Keylin, Beth Laschever, and Michael Holtzman. Photo by Ben Keylin.With songs like Consider Yourself (at Home), I’d Do Anything, and Where is Love, Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist was an instant hit that was soon transformed into the film that earned an Oscar for Best Picture in 1968. Forty years later it’s still one of the most popular stage shows around. But Seattle’s Youth Theatre Northwest and Director Kate Swenson make sure their production is clever and original.

It all begins in the workhouse several miles from London with the young orphans singing about Food, Glorious Food and the gruel they are about to receive, doing so dreamily – almost fainting in delirium over their food daydreams. That’s where young Oliver gets in trouble for asking for more gruel, and gets sold to a funeral parlor before fleeing to find love and fortune in London.

The role of Oliver Twist was double-cast, and 10-year-old Molly White had the honors the night I attended, with Molly turning in a nice rendition of Where is Love and then being particularly captivating when she arrives in London and meets the charming Artful Dodger (Spencer Hamp). When Spencer takes her under his wing and makes Oliver feel welcome, Molly glows and appears genuinely at home. And Choreographer Mimi Katano helps, giving them a secret handshake for Dodger and Oliver and turning the latter into a coat rack that the other hangs his coat on for the line, “consider yourself part of the furniture.”

And then it’s off to Dodger’s lodging, home to a band of eager pickpockets and their singular leader, Mr. Fagin. Michael Holtzman is singular in the role, a charismatic and physical comedian who gives Fagin a very unusual and amusing over-the-top spin. His big solo Reviewing the Situation, in which he decides whether to go straight or continue his risky life of crime, has him using a mop as his beloved wife whom he rejects and using a red sash that he ends up scaring himself with when it gets wound noose-like around his neck.

Other stars include Beth Laschever who has great personality as the fun but tragic Nancy, belting out a terrific As Long As He Needs Me. Her younger sister Bet (Rachel Keylin) joins Nancy, Oliver, Dodger, Fagin, and the gang in a fun I’d Do Anything. Other fine performances come from Rhiannon Batson as the lovely, toothless, uni-browed Widow Corney who is a hoot as she both resists and flirts with the mostly eager Mr. Bumble (Derek Poppe) in their amusing I Shall Scream number. The funeral family includes Max Smith-Holmes as a Mr. Sowerberry on Prozac with slow, methodical words and steps, Ellen Zahniser as Mrs. Sowerberry who has an excellent natural sense of humor, and Kevin Davis and Megan Hamp as Oliver-tormentors Noah Claypole and Charlotte Sowerberry.

And then there’s Bill Sykes, the legendary villain. Caleb Rock somehow manages to be both menacing and humorous as he makes the bar patrons cower in fear at his presence. Well, except for ensemble members Madeleine Hale and Sara Eisenberg, who are turned on by the threatening and powerful Bill (until Nancy chases them off). The ensemble is especially good as such rowdy bar patrons and as the London residents selling their wares or welcoming us into the seedy 19th-century city with their big performance of Consider Yourself.

Performs March 9-25, 2007.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Oliver: Molly White
Mr. Bumble: Derek Poppe
Widow Corney: Rhiannon Batson
Orphanage Staff:
Liz Harris Scruggs
Madeleine Hale
Alex Dulin
Sarah Taylor
Nathan Rudder
Victoria Gersch
Chase York
Madeline Dalton
Sandra Shepard
Waverley Woodley
Mr. Sowerberry: Max Smith-Holmes
Mrs. Sowerberry: Ellen Zahniser
Noah Claypole: Kevin Davis
Charlotte Sowerberry: Megan Hamp
Artful Dodger: Spencer Hamp
Fagin: Michael Holtzman
Nancy: Beth Laschever
Bet: Rachel Keylin
Bill Sykes: Caleb Rock
Mrs. Bedwin: Rachel Carlson
Mr. Brownlow: Nate Lessler
Dr. Grimwig: Max Smith-Holmes
Boy: Jeremy Alben
Old Lady: Sarah Eisenberg
Old Sally: Shannon Kane
Street Criers:
Sarah Taylor
Ashley Wells-Thulin
Alex Dulin
Clara Flaherty
Madeleine Hale

Director: Kate Swenson
Music Director: Heather MacLaughlin
Choreographer: Mimi Katano
Set Design: Rollin Thomas
Costume Design: Carisa Bush
Lighting Design: Trina B. Wright
Stage Manager: Brendan C. Weinhold


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