Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Trimmed "Oliver" Is Fair Musical

Cleveland Press August 10, 1966

"Oliver," as presented in Warren this week, is entertaining and short and if it were not short it might soon pall as entertainment.

Producer John Kenley has taken a touring package production of this show, recast the leading roles with Walter Slezak and Elizabeth Allen and then trimmed and tightened the production.

Both were smart moves since Slezak and Miss Allen give a lift to an affair that could easily drag and the trimming has headed off a good deal of dragging before it could begin.

"OLIVER," a free-wheeling adaptation of Dicken's "Oliver Twist," has a number of good songs, scene -- stealing kids and a few colorful characters.

Winter productions of "Oliver"have had enough razzle-dazzle in elaborate sets and staging to whisk audiences past the weak spots. Even more important, they had direction that kept the activities in a constant state of excitement.

The direction in Warren is a trifle slow and hesitating, failing to keep characters and story in focus.

THE SHOW OPENS with bunch of urchins in a work house singing "Food, Wonderful Food;" then comes the adventures of young Oliver who is sold to an undertaker, flees and joins up with a gang of thieves,

Young Michel Thom has a large and pure voice for the title role. Douglas Norwick is spritely Artful Dodger.

WaIter Slezak portrays Fagin, den father for a bunch of young pickpockets. There are a number of touches in the role that are more Slezak than Dickens. This massive man ambles slowly yet gracefully about the stage and the characterization is that of a villain both comic and mournful. His two big numbers are "You've Got To Pick a Pocket or Two" and "Reviewing the Situation."

AS THE TOUGH girl in this den of thieves, Elizabeth Allen displays a bigger voice than she has been noted for. She belts out the show stopper, "As Long as He Needs Me" and has fun with several rousing production numbers.

"Oliver" is generally entertaining and amusing. What it lacks is sparkle.