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Oliver! 

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester 
When: Sept. 15 through Oct. 1 
Tickets: $25 for children ages 6 through 12, $39 to $45 for adults 
More info: 668-5588, palacetheatre.org




A new Twist
Palace Theatre goes edgy with Oliver!

09/14/17
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



 Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist comes to life with a new steampunk look in the Palace Theatre’s latest production of Oliver!, opening at the Manchester theater on Friday, Sept. 15. 

The Broadway musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, is set in 19th-century England and follows an orphaned boy’s journey from a neglectful workhouse to an apprenticeship with an undertaker and, finally, to London, where he’s taken in by a gang of child pickpockets and wrongly accused of a theft he didn’t commit. 
The production stars a core cast of around 20 professional actors and 80 kids acting as extras. 
Oliver! actor Bill Hartery, who has performed in five productions of Oliver!, says this year’s production is a fresh and original take on the tale and possesses a “Tim Burton-esque quality.” 
“This is nothing like any of the other productions I’ve done. It’s a darker, edgier show. Everything’s a little off and has just a bit of weirdness to it,” he said. “The challenge is doing a classic that has been done to death in a way that is fresh and relevant and interesting, and I think we’re answering that challenge. It’s different, but none of that classic Broadway energy and feeling is lost.”
Part of its unique interpretation is the production’s steampunk costumes and set pieces, which combine Victorian style with futuristic and science fiction elements. 
“You aren’t used to seeing gears and corsets in Oliver!,” said Palace Theatre Company Manager and Youth Theatre Administrator Megan Quinn. “It’s a cool, new concept that I think adds another level of interest to the show.” 
The set follows a whimsical storybook theme with platforms designed as vintage scrolls of paper inscribed with original text from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and windows displaying original illustrations from the novel, which correspond with the scenes taking place.  
“It’s like the show and the whole thing is taking place within the pages of the book,” Hartery said. “The world folds around [Oliver] and suddenly he becomes a living part of the story. It’s very Disney-like.” 
The production also features an unconventional musical concept in which some of the actors play the instrumentals for the musical numbers with real instruments on stage while continuing to act as the characters in the scene. Musical Director Nathaniel Beliveau said that blending the visual aspect with the music adds a new layer to the story. 
“By integrating the musicians and actors, they become storytellers,” he said. “Instead of using the verbal word to perpetuate the story along, they’re using instruments to create this world for Oliver and tell more of the story and develop the characters further.” 
Beliveau assigned the instrument work for the most climactic musical moments to key characters to make the greatest impact. 
“That way, the important lines and melodic climbs have a new power,” he said. “They have more power than they do [in] the original recording, and the original content isn’t lost.” 
Putting on a production with an experimental interpretation and a large number of performers of various ages has been a challenge at points, Quinn said, but it’s been exciting for the cast and crew to watch it all come together. 
“A lot of it is being created as we go. It has to be, because we’ve brought in all these different people,” she said. “You’ll see the final product around the same time we do.” 





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