Oliver! Opens December 2


Oliver!, Gallery Players second production of its 69th season, opens December 2 at 8:00 p.m in the Roth/Resler Theater at the JCC College Ave.

Cast members ages seven to 77 will sing, act, and dance familiar tunes to the well-loved story of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens reimagined in the classical musical setting by Lionel Bart. The 1962 original production of Oliver! won the Tony Award for Best Original Score and since then has hit stages across the world time and time again. The Gallery Players production marks the Central Ohio premiere of a new version of the musical. This 2009 London Revival brings more color, more songs, and nuanced depth to dialogue which helps create a clear story and reorchestrates classic tunes.

“It’s a new script. This new production that originated in London went back to the book, the source material, and reworked parts of it, rearranged some of the music, and created a clearer picture and vivid story of what happens to Oliver,” said Director Pam Hill.

“What makes this so fun is that its music everyone knows, but it’s been changed,” said Music Director Allan Finkelstein, “It takes the same songs but rearranges them.”

This is not Finkelstein’s first production of Oliver!. As former Executive Director of the JCC, Finkelstein conducted numerous musicals for Gallery Players, including its 1980s production of Oliver!. Finkelstein retired in 2015 as President and CEO of the Jewish Community Center Association (JCCA) and returned to Gallery Players as musical director of the Gallery Players 2016 production of 13 The Musical. This year, he will also be musical director of the Gallery Players production of Side Show.

“There is a mixed cast full of JCC members and a lot of people who are known in the theater community,” Finkelstein said, “A lot of the younger actors are having their first experience in theater and the process is interesting to watch them learn and understand what they need to do.”

Hill agrees that working with talented young actors is inspiring.

“We have really smart kids” Hill said, “It’s amazing how quick some of them pick up on what needs to be done. I’m just thrilled with that.”

Hill is no stranger to Gallery Players either, directing ten musicals at the JCC including Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret, Into the Woods, Urinetown and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

“I am excited to be back working with Allan Finkelstein and some of these actors I’ve known since 1992,” Hill said, “I’m also discovering all these new people who are so very talented.”

Oliver! is set during the Industrial Revolution in England. Like many of Dicken’s stories, it highlights the dystopic environment of the poor and working class, while bringing warmth and family values to the plot.

“Most children read Oliver Twist at some point in school,” Hill said, “I, myself, grew up on Oliver! I knew all the songs by heart. It’s such a classic story.”

Finkelstein agrees that it is a family show and a great first impression of theater for kids. “You’re dealing with characters that come out of literature and a story that people relate to. It’s dark at times, but warm and lively with a variety of music. It’s an interesting show to introduce kids to theater because it’s themes and history you can explain.”

With the exuberant cast bringing to life revamped song favorites such as “Who Will Buy?” and “You’ve Got To Pick a Pocket or Two,” it will be sure to leave you saying, “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

Oliver! runs December 2 – 17 on Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m., and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. A full list of show times and tickets are available at columbusjcc.org/cultural-arts/gallery-players. For more information, contact Melanie Butter at mbutter@columbusjcc.org or 614-231-2731.