Oliver! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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OLIVER!, Cadillac Palace Theatre. It's easy to see why Cameron Mackintosh revived Lionel Bart's hit musical ten years ago: like Mackintosh's smash Les Miserables, Bart's 1963 adaptation of Oliver Twist replays an entire novel at warp speed and provides plenty of chances to depict gloomy Victorian back alleys and a swarming cityscape. Also, like the tried-and-true Annie, it's a feel-good rags-to-riches tale of orphans who triumph over evil. Oliver--whose goodness is assumed rather than developed--just needs enough pluck and luck to outwit dastardly robber renegade Fagin, cruel Bill Sikes, and Nancy, Sikes's much abused and vaguely maternal moll.

Graham Gill's nonunion touring production spins the melodrama but misses almost all the opportunities for depth. Justin S. Pereira brings a pure soprano to the heartrending "Where Is Love?" And if anyone can make Nancy's ballad "As Long as He Needs Me" (today an embarrassing celebration of enabling) bearable it would be Renata Renee Wilson--but no, she can't do it either. Andrew Blau's Artful Dodger and the other rascally pickpockets offer energy and contagious fun, Mark McCracken's Fagin is resolutely unethnic, and Bart's serviceable songs inspire major hoofing in the production numbers "Consider Yourself" and "Who Will Buy." If not consistently touching, Mackintosh's revival remains sturdy stuff.

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