By Pat Jenkins
The tradition of high holiday entertainment at The 5th Avenue Theatre is continuing this month with “Oliver.” To borrow from one of the iconic musical’s signature songs, it’s fun, glorious fun.
Lionel Bart’s classic story, which The 5th is presenting through Dec. 31 for the first time in 20 years, has a hefty cast of 66 singing and dancing through Victorian London and portraying messages of love, hope and family.
In the first few minutes, the audience settles in with the first of a steady stream of familiar songs and the catch-phrase line “Please, sir, I want some more.” By the end of the evening, everyone goes home with tunes dancing through their heads, including “”Who Will Buy?”, “I’d Do Anything,” “Food, Glorious Food” and “As Long As He Needs Me.”
The leading roles, under the direction of David Armstrong, are artfully portrayed by David Pichette as Fagin, Grayson Smith as the artful dodger, Merideth Kaye Clark as a show-stopping Nancy, and Jack Fleischmann and Mark Jeffrey James Weber alternating as Oliver Twist.
Unlike holiday presentations by The 5th of “Elf” last year and “A Christmas Story” the year bfore, “Oliver” isn’t a knee-slapping romp. It includes some violent scenes and children in grim environments being repressed by despicable adults. But the darkness is an essential part of the story that can give audiences an appreciation for the goodness of the season and the central character’s unwavering crusade for happiness and compassion. Happy holidays.