Drury Lane Theatre: “Oliver!”

Sometimes, it’s all about punctuation.

To many, hinging a professional musical-theatrical production on the abilities of a bunch of children would be a huge question mark. Not to folks in Oakbrook Terrace. At least, not when they have director/choreographer extraordinaire Rachel Rockwell at the helm.

Drury Lane’s current production of “Oliver!” doesn’t include an exclamation point for no reason.

Two unbelievably talented kids—11-year-old Brady Tutton as Oliver and Lake Forest sixth-grader Sophie Thatcher as Bet—shine with a host of other youngsters and Chicagoland favorite adults Heidi Kettenring and Michael Aaron Lindner. Not a patron leaves this fabulous production without thinking, “Please, I’d like some more.”

Tutton’s effortless delivery of the signature ballads, “Where is Love” and “Who Will Buy” are jaw-dropping. Both his look and voice harken thoughts to Mark Lester, who performed the role in the 1968 Academy Award-winning film.

Jaws are not dropped for Tutton alone. Thatcher’s resonant timbre-beyond-her-years makes her the perfect sidekick to Kettenring’s Nancy. The pair is front and center in showstoppers, “It’s a Fine Life” and “Oom Pah Pah.” If this isn’t among Kettenring’s most joyful roles, she certainly has the audience fooled. Her “As Long as He Needs Me” is delivered with Jeff-worthy angst.

And proving the adage that there are no small roles, only small actors, Lindner’s Mr. Bumble stands out above the more meaty male roles as perfectly played for tyrannical buffoonery that leaves patrons smiling for days after leaving the show.

No expense was spared in this elaborate production featuring a cast of nearly 50 and elegantly functional sets that never get in the way of the show’s appropriately quick pacing.

Lionel Bart’s “Oliver!” holds an appropriate place in the hearts of America’s musical-theater patrons. The story, based on Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” was first brought to the stage in London’s West End in 1960 and has enjoyed modest-but-long-term success since. A history and synopsis may be found here.

This production does not necessarily break new ground, as Rockwell’s/Drury Lane’s “Sound of Music” did with a fresh take on the lead character. But in this case, that simply isn’t necessary.

So buy a ticket and several more for the family. Sit back, and consider yourselves at home.

Because this production is perfectly punctuated.

“Oliver!” runs through June 2 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than a 1-hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Parking is complimentary. Information and tickets ($35-49 with additional dinner packages and senior and student discounts for some shows) are available online or by phone 630-530-0111.


barry-reszel-writers-photoBarry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.