–by Britt Santowski, Sooke PocketNews; photos from Marleen Kiral
Theatre productions in Sooke keep on getting bigger, and bolder, and better. This year’s Oliver, presented by the Sooke Harbour Players and directed by Drew Kemp, is no exception.
The new-to-the-stage lead character was played by a young Theo Stolth, who delivered a moving portrayal of Oliver. The vulnerability of this poor orphan and his aching desire for love (and the settling for acceptance whatever-the-cost in its lieu) emanates through this young and talented actor.
The young Oliver is supported by an incredible and eclectic band of orphans. Collectively, their performance is top-notch. And when they sing their voices are strong and clear, an unusual accomplishment for non-microphoned performers of such a tender age. I was unspeakably impressed by the very visible talent that presented itself with this group. Singularly, the show is worth watching for the performances from these young performers alone. Quite a number of them have a future on the stage.
The adult performances were equally strong. Lara Reynolds, who portrayed the emotionally complex character Nancy, was a comfortable performer who navigated from spoken to song with incredible natural ease. James Glasgow was the wonderfully wicked (downright evil actually) Bill Sikes, and moved at least one viewer (me) with a commanding closing performance. Alex Gallacher did justice to the role of Fagin, the lowly un-empowered criminal who ekes an existence through scavenging, and forges his identity by leveraging the misery of others.
Leading the orphan pack was Mercer Balzer as Dodger who was strong in song and in performance. Kiarra Balzer smoothly delivered in her role of Bet, the trusted companion to Nancy. The Sowerberry family, who played the money-grubbing undertakers were delightfully performed by Anthony Balzer and Susan Browne (who takes one for the team with a noble headfirst tumble into the coffin herself!), and their irreverent daughter Charlotte played by Katharine Holmes. And speaking of money-grubbing, Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney (performed by Scott and Jayna Forgie respectively) provided an hilarious commentary on the sanctity of marriage.
The musical and dance performances were accompanied by live musicians, always an enriching piece of the performance. The dancers, which included tap and dance, added another layer of pleasure to the show. The set transitions were also remarkable. At times multiple scenes were played out in one scene, with the performers of the second scene in a motion-freeze while the first scene played out. The effect was truly remarkable.
Okay. So I’ve done a lot of gushing. I have to: I left the performance slightly and unexpectedly verklempt, moved by the powerful performances that closed the show. Please don’t expect perfect. There were slight glitches and a few misses. And I personally would have preferred just one extra minute of darkness at the end of the show to compose myself. But, overall it was gloriously local, with a display of talent that was breathtaking and delightful.
Don’t miss this show. This is a wonderful way to spend your evening. You will not be disappointed.
Tickets for Oliver! can be purchased over the phone. Call Andrew at 250-507-4979; leave a message if the line is busy and you will receive a callback. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
- Adult tickets: $15
- Seniors/Under 16: $12
- Family tickets: $35 (2 children, 2 adults)
- Sat, 18 Nov 14:30 and 19:30
- Fri, 24 Nov 19:30
- Sat, 25 Nov 14:30 and 19:30
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