Once again the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas has proven that theatre is thriving right here in Pine Bluff.
Last week, patrons were taken back in time and across the ocean to London in the center’s production of “Oliver!”. Set in the late 19th Century, “Oliver!” is a musical adaptation of the book “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens.
The story tells of Oliver’s journey as he deals with being an orphan who only wants to love and be loved. He faces living on the streets and joining a pickpocket gang just to survive, but he ultimately finds what he has been searching for.
Music to accompany the singing cast could be heard from the orchestra pit where Robert E. Brown directed the talented musicians. The time period and location were brought to life by a versatile set that changed almost effortlessly with the scenes and by costumes befitting the late 1800’s.
Cast members included many longtime ASC performers who have lent their talent to several productions. There were several notable performances including the one by David Fleming, who played the kindhearted villain, Fagin. Fleming’s portrayal of Fagin was a testament to his love for theatre which began when he played Oliver at the age of 8.
With a background in musical theatre, Tracy S. Sutherland shined in the role of Mrs. Sowerberry. Two young pickpockets that stole the hearts of the audience were Jack Clay, playing Oliver, and Briar Thompson, playing The Artful Dodger.
Director Stephanie Ong along with the cast and crew, took this classic work and brought it to life all the while engaging the audience in a story that is truly timeless.
“What drew me into directing this play were the parallels between the social ills of 19th Century London and today’s pressing issues,” Ong said. “In Oliver’s journey, he experiences homelessness, hunger, witnesses domestic violence and is engulfed in a gang of pickpockets. Essentially, these issues are still present in today’s times,” she said.