Saturday, May 19, 2007

Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 14

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist at Berkeley Rep

Back in the '60's, a young Davy Jones played the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver!. Jones would later find international fame as a member of The Monkees, and Oliver! would become a popular film that left audiences humming tunes like "Consider Yourself" and "Food, Glorious Food" for decades to come.

Well, the current production of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist at Berkeley Rep is nothing like that.

For one thing, it's not a musical, even though some pitch perfect a capella vocals do punctuate the action at varying points in the show. It's also much darker than Oliver! could ever dream of being. I have to admit, I have never read Oliver Twist, even though I count myself among Dickens fans. However, according to the young actor who plays Oliver (as well as many others, I imagine), the Oliver Twist running in Berkeley is much more similar in tone to the novel.

But above all else, it is really, really good.

If you think an adaptation of a nearly 200-year old book can't be provoking or relevant in 2007, think again. Plus, in what I have come to recognize as grand Berkeley Rep tradition, the show features some incredible acting. Sometimes bringing a classic to life in the 21st century is just the kind of theatre we need to make us happy.

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