Summary

Summary

Directed by Danielle Dwyer, MA, CJ

This production premiered in London in 1960, and is based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. As the summer comes to end, bring your family and friends to one of these well-loved performances.

“Please, sir, I want some more.” Charles Dickens had a knack for these lines: they’re eked out by seemingly inconsequential young boys (Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Pip, and the lot)—the lowest of the low—and yet they take root in our hearts, inviting us to step into the gritty, dazzling, and desperate heart of Victorian England, and speaking a message that endures. The grim conditions and depressing menu of the workhouse (Parliament’s answer to the rising cost of poverty, providing a meager existence in exchange for child labor) would be enough to drive any person to gasp for more, but somehow these words in the mouth of 11-year-old Oliver Twist catapult us all—characters, readers, viewers alike—to embark on a quest for so much more: for food and physical security, of course, but most of all, for love.

August 23-25
Friday – 7:30 PM
Saturday – 6:00 PM Dinner, 7:30 PM Performance
Sunday – 3:00 PM

LIONEL BART’S OLIVER! is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
www.MTIShows.com

LOCATION:
Paraclete House
Rock Harbor, Orleans MA

Cast & Staff

Cast & Staff

Director:

Danielle Dwyer, MA, CJ • Artistic Director,
Co-Founder of Elements Theatre Company

Cast

Mr. Bumble – Kyle Norman
Mrs. Corney – Rachel McKendree
Oliver Twist – Eli Minster
Old Sally – Sr. Phoenix Catlin
Mr. Sowerberry – Br. Timothy Pehta
Mrs. Sowerberry – Ellen Ortolani
Charlotte – Stephanie Haig
Noah Claypole – Dane Spatzeck-Olsen
The Artful Dodger – Jacob Ortolani
Fagin – Peter Haig
Charley Bates – Solomon Spatzeck-Olsen
Bill Sikes – Alex Pugsley
Bullseye – Chipper, one of the Friary’s dogs
Nancy – Sr. Diana Shannon
Bet – Stephanie Haig
Mr. Brownlow – Br. Matthew Gillis
Mrs. Bedwin – Ellen Ortolani
Mr. Grimwig – Br. Timothy Pehta

Workhouse Orphans – Lydia Andre, Morgan Andre, Brendan Lynch, Michael Lynch, Sylvia Lynch, Alana McKendree, Justin McKendree, Sophie McKendree, Eli Minster, Lila Minster, Natalie Minster, Connor Norman, Solomon Spatzeck-Olsen, Jacob Ortolani, Oliver Ortolani, Noah Ortolani, Gabriella Shannon, Olivia Tingley, Abigail Vought

Fagin’s Gang – Lydia Andre, Morgan Andre, Aaron Bushnell, Sean Bushnell, Michael Lynch, Sylvia Lynch, Alana McKendree, Justin McKendree, Sophie McKendree, Natalie Minster, Dane Spatzeck-Olsen, Gabriel Spatzeck-Olsen, Solomon Spatzeck-Olsen, Oliver Ortolani, Noah Ortolani, Ashley Schuman, Olivia Tingley, Abigail Vought

Ensemble – Aaron Bushnell, Sean Bushnell, Sr. Phoenix Catlin, Stephanie Haig, John Jordan, Sophie McKendree, Dane Spatzeck-Olsen, Gabriel Spatzeck-Olsen, Rachel McKendree, Ashley Schuman, Benjamin Vought, Sarah Hale, Christopher Vought, Ellen Ortolani, Noah Ortolani

Playwright

Lionel Bart was the youngest of eleven children of Austrian-Jewish refugees. His father supported his large family as a tailor, and Bart grew up surrounded by music on London’s streets—the Yiddish theater, music halls, the Salvation Army band. Although he never learned to read or write music, he is considered a musical genius. He felt that songs should be spontaneous, and no song should take more than a few minutes to create. Bart hummed the melodies and lyrics, while someone else wrote the notes. His first success was in writing songs for British pop artists. Oliver! was his third musical.

News & Reviews

From the Director

From the Director

Welcome to Oliver!

In this piece, we learn a lot about what was important to Charles Dickens. He was a man who suffered immeasurably as the oldest son providing for his family by working at the age of twelve in a workhouse, while the rest of his family was in debtor’s prison. This experience was imprinted on his memory, along with the plight of those in London who suffered in similar circumstances as his.

Charles Dickens loved this city, and saw the corruption invading not only London, but throughout England. He described it as a fog that covered what was good and true, that which brought light to a soul’s eyes. His way of dispelling the fog was to write stories that revealed the corruption, as seen through the lives and events of characters like Oliver and Nancy, Fagin and Bill Sikes. A humanitarian at heart, he was disappointed by the pretenses of good that riddled the poor laws during his time. There was little real care for a person’s dignity, very little value given to nourishing the soul of an individual, let alone care for children or the weak.

This is at the heart of Oliver! He shows us that it is not just one type of person or character that fails in love. It seems that Dickens asks the question: how do we care for those around us, looking past what will benefit us, to what will enrich their life and raise their level of living? In the workhouses, a piece of scripture was often displayed on a wall to serve as an inspiration. In this Production, we chose Love thy neighbor as thyself (Mark 12:31). It seemed to answer Dickens’ question, and if we choose, to serve as a mirror to challenge ourselves, offering us the opportunity to see a wider, bigger picture of the world around us. Thank you for joining us.

See and Hear

See and Hear

About the Play

“Please, sir, I want some more.” Charles Dickens had a knack for these lines: they’re eked out by seemingly inconsequential young boys (Oliver Twist, Tiny Tim, Pip, and the lot)—the lowest of the low—and yet they take root in our hearts, inviting us to step into the gritty, dazzling, and desperate heart of Victorian England, and speaking a message that endures. The grim conditions and depressing menu of the workhouse (Parliament’s answer to the rising cost of poverty, providing a meager existence in exchange for child labor) would be enough to drive any person to gasp for more, but somehow these words in the mouth of 11-year-old Oliver Twist catapult us all—characters, readers, viewers alike—to embark on a quest for so much more: for food and physical security, of course, but most of all, for love.

Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in 1837, one year after Victoria was crowned Queen of England. At just 24 years old, Dickens had become a household name. A year earlier as an unknown journalist he took the job of writing text for a series of engravings for a popular magazine. The Pickwick Papers was a huge comic success, and jump-started Dickens’ career as a novelist. His second serial, Oliver Twist, exposed the dark side of London life through the plight of an orphan, but still had the public waiting impatiently for the next magazine episode every two weeks— entertaining and educating readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dickens’ early life provided all the material he needed for Oliver Twist. As the eldest son of a Royal Navy pay clerk, his life seemed carefree until age 11, when his father went to debtor’s prison, and young Dickens was forced to leave school to work in a shoe polish factory. The boy was then on his own, as the rest of the family travelled to be near the prison. A year later, his father inherited enough money to pay off his debts, the family returned, and Dickens went back to school—much to the chagrin of his mother who wanted him to keep working. At 15, he left school to work for London solicitors. Excelling at shorthand, he soon became a freelance stenographer and journalist for law trials and Parliamentary proceedings. He was known as a fine mimic—honing his sense of dialog and idiosyncrasies—and no doubt saw his inspiration for Fagin, Bill Sikes, and dozens of his more savory characters while covering trials, debates, and various legal proceedings.

So Dickens himself navigated the reversals of fortune he then conferred on Oliver Twist, and the resultant novel bearing the young hero’s name continued to be popular long after the author’s death in 1870, becoming a platform for social reform. Oliver Twist exposed the plight of the orphan and London’s dark underworld. As mentioned previously, the book was published in 1837, just three years after the British parliament established the workhouse system through the Poor Laws of 1834. The government’s intention was to reduce the cost of poverty by supporting the poor in workhouses in exchange for forced labor. Families were separated, as men, women, and children were placed in different houses. Dickens’ exposé in Oliver Twist led to reforms for more humane treatment, although workhouses were not abolished until 1930.

Fast forward to 1948. British producer David Lean releases a film adaptation of Oliver Twist. In a London audience, 16-year old Lionel Beglieter (renamed “Bart”) reportedly tells a friend that he will write the musical someday. In 1960 he does, adapting the story to the stage as well as composing the songs and lyrics.

Lionel Bart was the youngest of eleven children of Austrian-Jewish refugees. His father supported his large family as a tailor, and Bart grew up surrounded by music on London’s streets—the Yiddish theater, music halls, the Salvation Army band. Although he never learned to read or write music, he is considered a musical genius. He felt that songs should be spontaneous, and no song should take more than a few minutes to create. Bart hummed the melodies and lyrics, while someone else wrote the notes. His first success was in writing songs for British pop artists. Oliver! was his third musical. At 30, Lionel Bart wrote the book, lyrics, and music, and had to finance the production himself after it was turned down by a dozen promoters. It seems that few London theater owners wanted to risk a cast that included so many children and a dog, not to mention a tragedy. Opening night was traumatic for the author/lyricist/composer. When the stage briefly malfunctioned, Bart left the audience expecting disaster, and did not return until the 16th curtain call. The show ran for six years. And so began a revival of London musical theater.

Cameron MacIntosh, musical theatre producer, calls Lionel Bart “the father of the British musical.” Until Oliver! most of London’s West End musicals were American-made. The English have a long history of musical theatre, notably the comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, but the book musical, with plot and spoken dialog interspersed with song and dance, was developed on Broadway. American classics by Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Lerner and Loewe played well in London. Oliver! ushered in the era of British musicals such as Evita, Miss Saigon, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera.

The statistics of Oliver!’s success are striking: nominated for 10 Tony awards and 8 Laurence Olivier Awards (UK), with numerous revivals, summer stock, and school productions. Lionel Bart’s songs from the show have been recorded as singles: “Consider Yourself ” was used in the first episode of Sesame Street; “As Long as He Needs Me” was popularized by Shirley Bassey, as well as Sammy Davis, Jr., singing “As Long as She Needs Me”; “I’d Do Anything for You” was used for a commercial for British Airways; “Food, Glorious, Food” advertised cheese, with the change of lyric to “Cheese, Glorious, Cheese”; “Where is Love” was recorded by numerous artists as varied as the Four Seasons and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Unfortunately, Lionel Bart did not benefit from any of this. Desperate to finance another production, he sold all his rights to Oliver! in 1972 for a very small sum.

Lionel Bart recognized a good story, and made its characters more modern in the telling. Like Dickens, he did not shy away from the extremes of human nature–the very dark and the very light—along with the ugliest and most redemptive elements of character, class, society.

Fagin is an example. Charles Dickens described Fagin as a “receiver of stolen goods,” a dark, sinister character who avoided the light. Dickens was also accused of a serious anti-Semitism (which he denied) in the creation of Fagin. In Oliver!, although he’s still a crook and exploiter of children, Fagin becomes a little more than a villain: he’s a man who is forced by circumstances to change his way of life, but refuses in the end. And because Oliver! is a musical, Fagin thoroughly argues the pros and cons in song before landing on his final decision. For Lionel Bart, Fagin is someone who had made choices, and may want to change, but, in the end, chooses not to.

Nancy, a long-time member of Fagin’s gang, is in an abusive relationship, and used quite literally in every way. Again in song, in emotions that are too much for words alone to express, Nancy explains just why she chooses to stay in that relationship, and a 20th- (or 21st-) century audience can fully empathize. Nancy is more than black and white, good or bad: we see her struggle and choose, battling what seems inescapable, with a vision of what should—or could—be, and fighting for it until the end.

Bart selects a few of Dickens’ other quirky folks who assist Oliver on his way, to express the core elements of human nature that he is intent to highlight: the Bumble’s hypocrisy, the Sowerberry’s usage, Mr. Brownlow’s inherent goodness. And of course there is Oliver, whose heart-breaking orphan cry of “Where is Love” provides the impetus for the whole story.

With Oliver! Lionel Bart has taken Dickens’ story, and highlighted its enduring truths, its horrors, its thrills, and its ultimate redemption, staying true to the definition of a musical: When the emotion is too strong for speech, you sing; when the emotion is too strong for song, you dance.

The Life of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was the Victorian era’s most popular novelist. Born in 1812, he became a household name after writing The Pickwick Papers as a newspaper serial at age 24, and remained a sought-after public figure until his death in 1870 at age 58. His career included two lecture tours in the United States, where he was just as popular as in England. Besides writing numerous novels, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, and, in his later years, became an accomplished amateur actor, performing dramatic readings of his own work.

In 1836, the same year his career sky-rocketed, he married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of his editor at the Morning Chronicle newspaper. They had ten children.

In 1837, Dickens became editor of a new magazine, Bentley’s Miscellany, for which he wrote Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby in installments. He then completed The Old Curiosity Shop and the less popular Barnaby Rudge, before leaving for a lecture tour of America in 1842. Upon his return, he wrote American Notes, which was received badly in the US. His next novel, Martin Chuzzelwit, was not immediately popular.

A Christmas Carol, the first of his many Christmas stories, reignited Dickens’s reputation in 1844. It sold out immediately, and had eight printings in the first six months. By 1850, he had completed two more major works—Domby and Son, and the autobiographical David Copperfield. In 1850, he became joint owner and editor of a new weekly journal, Household Words.

In 1851, his father and infant daughter died a month apart. His next major works are considered his dark novels—Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit. He separated from his wife in 1858, and began his first public readings of his works.

In 1859, Dickens established a new weekly journal, All the Year Round. The first edition included a serialization of A Tale of Two Cities. Next he wrote Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. In 1865, he was in a major rail accident from which he never fully recovered. He published his last Christmas story in 1867.

In 1867-68, he visited the United States a second time, this time doing dramatic readings. Ralph Waldo Emerson saw him in Boston, and wrote: “I am afraid he has too much talent for his genius; it is a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest.”

During his later years, his dramatic public readings gained more importance. He was an accomplished amateur actor, and loved the connection of reading his work in front of an audience. He also discovered he could make more money from paid readings than writing or editing. His repertoire consisted of 16 works. The most popular were the “Trial from Pickwick” and “A Christmas Carol.” The last reading he devised was “Sikes and Nancy” with horrifics that startled the audience and left him exhausted. It has been suggested that his addiction to performing this scene led to his death at 58.

Dickens died on June 9, 1870, having completed nearly half of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.