Somewhere along the way, I missed last month's press opening for Drury Lane Theatre's latest production of the beloved stage musical "Oliver!," directed and choreographed by wonderful Rachel Rockwell.
But it just meant I had a reason to take my parents to this destination dinner theater in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. to catch it for Mother's Day weekend.
It's an easy reason to fall in love with the songs and story of Charles Dickens' woeful orphan. Find your way to a performance to this must-see before it leaves June 2.
"Oliver!" features an all-star cast of 35, led by songtress-actress-dancer and everything all wrapped in one talent Heidi Kettenring as pub wench Nancy, opposite Jeff Award winner John Reeger as sneaky Fagin, the rogue who leads a pack of pick-pocket street kids (who just happen to also smoke pipes, play cards and drink gin).
I would have thought the army of children also featured could learn a thing or two from the collected cast of adult talent.
But the young leads are already tremendous in their abilities, with J.D. Rodriguez stealing the show as the Artful Dodge and 11-year-old Brady Tutton just as perfect as his crafty counterpart as in the title role of Oliver Twist.
Rockwell's wizardry shines through in every scene with her guidance leading the marked precision of every exchange, be it dialogue, dancing or even the comic timing of the characters. (Note that Rockwell gets to direct both her mother, Glory Kissel, who stars as Brownlow Manor housekeeper Mrs. Bedwin, and also her son, Jake Helm, who plays an orphan. Oh, and her husband, Garth Helm provides the pleasure of his sound design.
There's a reason the recent Cameron Mackintosh-produced revival at London's Drury Lane was seen by nearly 1.5 million people.
This is a tale that always pleases. Set in the dismal slums of 19th Century London, it follows the adventures of Oliver, forced from a seedy workhouse to work at a gloomy mortuary and finally, led to a life of pick-pocketing.
The unforgettable score including "Food Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "You’ve Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two," "I'd Do Anything" and "As Long As He Needs Me" stay in the mind, and humming on the mouth, long after you've left the theater.
The elaborate set by multi-Jeff Award winner Kevin Depinet is imagination brought to life, with help from the spot-on lighting design by Greg Hofmann. Costume Designer Theresa Ham has never done finer work and the distinct detail prop design by Nick Heggestad, including a live caged canary, and impressive wig design by Rick Jarvie.
"Oliver" stars Larry Adams as good Mr. Brownlow, balanced by the bad emitted in a frank portrayal from John Gawlik as nasty Bill Sikes. Michael Aaron Lindner brings new depth as Mr. Bumble, nicely pitted with Catherine Smitko's bitter Widow Corney. And just for fun, no one is a better bully than Patrick Tierney as funeral parlor know-it-all bloke Noah Claypole.
Tickets are $35 to $74 with the latter including lunch and dinner packages. Student group tickets start as low as $30 and Senior Citizens start at $32 for matinees and $47 for a matinee luncheon package. FYI: (630) 530-0111 or drurylane.com.