Theatre review: Musical Theatre West’s Oliver! at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center


Photo by Caught in the Moment Photography

Fagin (Davis Gaines) and Oliver (Travis Burnett) in Musical Theatre West’s production of Oliver!

“Where is love?” Oliver sings as he escapes a group of cruel adults, only to find himself among another. People see his vulnerability, deprive him of food and kindness and rob him of his childhood and his humanity. What eventually brightens his future is not so much his courage or intelligence, rather his late-discovered wealth. The only person ever nice to him is a blood relative, proving the tribal mentality of Dickens and his time.

Despite all the hurdles that the homeless orphan faces—his de facto slavery, his initiation into a life of crime— this production makes for a vibrant experience. Not so much because of the familiar plot, rather for the sweet unison of children’s voices, the jolly songs of Lionel Bart and the seamlessly shifting of sophisticated and realistic scenery designed by Dennis Hassan and designed and constructed by Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre.

The cast members, singing to a live orchestra, are graceful and confident in their roles. Broadway’s Davis Gaines (Fagin) presented a playful, controlled and precise performance in this Tony Award-winning musical. Cayman Ilika (Nancy) and the 12-year-old?Travis?Burnett (Oliver) received well-deserved standing ovations. Director James A Rocco, choreographer Hector Guerrero and Ryan O’Connell, who did music direction, prove their skills in taking such an outstanding show to the stage.

The songs “Consider Yourself” and “You’ve Gotta Pick A Pocket Or Two” drag too long, but, overall, Oliver! is a lively, heartwarming production, charming the audience with powerful music, a captivating story and a shinning cast.

Musical Theatre West’s (MTW) production of Lionel Bart’s Tony Award-winning musical Oliver! at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center runs from Feb. 8 to Feb. 24. Tickets are on sale and can be accessed by visiting, calling (562) 856-1999 or at visiting the MTW box office. Tickets start at $20.